Friday, August 13, 2010

Cafes raise the bar-ista with beans

THE blank looks and 'what does that mean?' headshakes that once greeted a nifty little word of Italian origin have disappeared in the modern era of Australia's oh-so-sophisticated cafe culture. The word has escaped the crossword grids that formerly rested on bare tables beside cups of lukewarm instant coffee – which always seemed to come out half strength even if you asked for hot and strong. Few adult Australians nowadays would need to ask the meaning of 'barista', which appeared out of a cloud of steam over the past two decades or so and now hovers around the crispness of ironed tablecloths.

AS 'barista' has taken its place in everyday language, the evolution of the cafe culture, in fact, has created a profession. Where once the common belief was that virtually anyone could accept money to make a cup of coffee, nowadays society demands a specialist, even when no payment is required. Redland City counts among its entrepreneurial businesses A Class of Barista, which has trained coffee makers for about the past year at Capalaba. Carrying a subtitle as 'the Brisbane Barista School', the business is the brainchild of a highly experienced hospitality manager, Nathan Fleury.

NATHAN spent 17 years in 'front-of-house' food and beverage management with restaurants, cafes, hotels, resorts and even six-star ocean cruisers before he acted to meet the need for barista training in south-east Queensland. He says he affiliated with Sugar'n Spice Coffee to conduct his schools at the Dan Street coffee roast house, is pleased with the handy Redland location and already has trained dozens of hospitality professionals as well as 'home baristas'. "The demand of discerning consumers for excellent coffee means that it is a crucial factor for the cafes," he says. "Coffee is such a competitive commodity, if a cafe does not make good coffee the cafe down the road will get the business."

AT the highest level, A Class of Barista takes gradutates to national accreditation for their skills but it also supports local schools' vocational education training (VET) for Year 11 and 12 students. Nathan says the industry has experienced a trend away from blends to single-bean grounds that have propelled Papua New Guinea's coffee to rank with that of Ecuador and Colombia among the connoisseur's choice. Nathan's passion for coffee comes through as he talks about his search for "one of the rarest delicacies" in the coffee universe: a cup made from beans that have passed through the digestive tract of a small animal that inhabits parts of Indonesia.

SUCH a cup is rather expensive but Nathan hopes one day to have the chance to hand over as much as $90 for the treat. That is how far the cafe culture has come. We know that one will be hot and strong. Thanks for joining me to meet the people in the marvellous community of classified advertising.

Classie Corner, which celebrates its 30st anniversary in 2010, year, now appears in The Redland Times, a Fairfax Media/Rural Press newspaper. Image is Microsoft clipart.

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