Baristas at Crema

A lot goes on behind the scenes at a place like Crema, but the face of any café is its baristas. If they appear automated, following a script and orders to appear bright and cheery, the café feels automated, less personable. If they’re snooty, so steeped in coffee knowledge and opinion that they make you feel like a boor for putting cream in your precious brew, well, who wants to put up with that? It’s tough to find just the right people, but Crema puts a lot of effort into this vital part of the café business.

“You have to find people who are really into the coffee,” says Crema owner Geoff Polci, “but who also want to work hard.” The training can get pretty demanding. “We train them early in the mornings,” Polci says, “five-thirty, before the shop opens. Typically, it’s two to three training sessions, one specifically on using the grinder, learning how to tamp, how to dose. Then they learn how to taste, what to taste for, and then about extraction ratios, weighing the ground coffee against the weight of the brewed espresso, and about how even the slightest adjustment in grind particle size can totally change the flavour of the espresso.”

Only then do they get to try actually making the drinks. “They’re typically doing Americanos and non-milk drinks for a while,” Polci says. “Then we do a lesson on milk steaming and how to produce microfoam and all about the temperature of the milk. And then they start learning to make lattes, cappuccinos, mistos, with an emphasis on taste.”

Only when they’ve mastered that, he says, do they start learning how to do latte art, and even that stage of the training comes in measured doses, starting with learning how to pour perfect hearts before attempting the more difficult rosettas and tulips.

So the next time your server hands you one of those rosettes on your cappuccino, consider it your Crema stamp of approval on one of the best baristas in town.

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