Coffee Query + : Natalia Piotrowska, 2015 Irish Barista Champion
What got you into coffee and what’s kept you in coffee?
You see, where I work isn’t a speciality coffee shop, so I have my coffee room at home more than anything else, y’know? What I do in work is so different from what I achieved [in the coffee competitions].
But it’s the way it’s so interesting - there’s so much going on about it. It was probably the first sip of speciality coffee I tried that got me interested in it - it was that kind of kick that I noticed that it was something different; I didn’t taste it before. Then it was going around, checking it out more - then getting into smaller competitions with businesses.. It was tasting good stuff and wanting to know what’s going on!
What have been your favourite coffees, both in filter and as espresso?
I’m more fond of espressos in general - from what I’ve tasted, I’m in love with Bolivia. Especially when I was cupping so many at the cupping table to choose my coffee for the competition, there was just so much good stuff. But then, on filter, I’d say coffees from El Salvador - not that I’ve had any time whatsoever to brew [filter] coffee!
What’s your home coffee setup?
I have a Gaggia Deco - I bought it 3 years ago to practice for competition. It was needed to get into the routine - that’s probably my main kit, and its been on for ages since practicing for competition! I’ll be checking out new stuff as well once things settle down. I’m borrowing a Mythos 1 from 3fe for training purposes, but I usually just have a Mazzer Luigi that I got ages ago. I’d like to get a Mythos 1 for myself after this! I have other bits and pieces for filter that I try out - I like to try everything, but it’s mainly just espressos that I make.
Where do you want Dublin/Ireland’s coffee culture to develop next?
Probably, it’d be interesting to see growth in coffee houses and restaurants that use speciality coffee - to see them use more than one brew method. It’d take time and you’d have to manage that to keep it consistent, but it’d be interesting to see other techniques; it’d be good to see.
Who’s someone you admire in coffee?
I suppose, especially when I was training at 3fe - maybe Colin Harmon. When I’d talk to him, the direction he’d give would have the most impact. I admire him as a coffee professional, and it’s been good to know him and get advice from him. It really opened the doors of knowledge, and he was willing to share that.
What advice would you give to somebody just starting out in your field?
In the field of competing? Stick to what you’re doing, and try to get better every day. You also have to get to the stage where you can have fun with it. It’s tough, and I’m the worst person to say it as well, but also don’t be too hard on yourself! Just enjoy it, practice, get confident - no matter what you do, no matter how good or bad it is, just get confident with it, stick with what you have, and just go with it.
I want to open my own coffee shop as well - but I don’t have any advice for that yet, because I haven’t started!
What are you drinking now?
I haven’t taken a break from my competition coffee to be honest! I have so much coffee, but I haven’t had time to open them - I get up, I go to work, I work on my routine… I had a Brazilian yesterday, actually, from Cloud Picker - it was beautiful.
What coffee are you using for your routine?
It’s a Bolivian, fully-washed coffee - from Rosenda Melgar. It’s a Typica variety.. I don’t want to say everything, you’ll have to watch the competition to find out more! There were two or three coffees that I was between when choosing my coffee, but finally the taste and the story behind it made me take this one.
How many times have you competed, and how has this year compared?
This is my fourth year competing - it’s definitely easier - but that was only because I got really good coffee and got so much help! I also got to know the coffee so much more than before. It’s more relaxed, I was more organised, more calm, and after doing the competitions so many times now, it’s not as stressful as the first time.
This has been the most enjoyable time so far, I suppose, too. I’ve never enjoyed the competition so much before. There was a kind of click that happened with the routine, totally different from what I used to do, and it’s just made me so much happier and more excited.
Has competing helped your work behind bar?
Yeah, definitely! Not even just behind bar, but with people in general. You don’t do stupid things anymore, and it helped make me more organised, better at prioritising things, and I’ve become more efficient behind bar.