In celebration of International Coffee Day
It’s International Coffee Day here in Perth and what better way to celebrate than by giving the spotlight to our wonderful Barista Trainer Summah!
Summah is one of the many incredible women who work in the coffee industry. It’s our pleasure to sit down and have a chat to hear her experience working with coffee for the last 20 years!
Firstly, an introduction from the Leaf Bean Machine owners – Brad and Fleur
“We first met Summah at Eco Beach in Broome. We supplied the cafe with our Karvan coffee and Summah was the head barista. We stayed there and enjoyed drinking our coffee all week incognito. Summah had no idea we were the owners of Karvan. On the last day, we revealed our identities and thanked her for doing such a good job with our coffee. We must reiterate – Summah made a delicious coffee. She was so thrilled to meet us and we told her that if she was ever in Perth to come and visit us at the roastery. Turns out she took us up on our offer. We’re lucky enough to say Summah’s been our Barista Trainer for 6 years now.”
“Our first impressions were of her easy-going nature and the great job she had done with training the staff to all make delicious coffee. No matter the barista on shift, the high quality was consistent. ”
“Summah has always had our back and been prepared to have a go which we love. Seeing her do demonstrations at the Royal Show, listening to her being interviewed on the radio and her calm manner under pressure at Gourmet Escape are highlights. The stand out though is her compassion for human beings. This is particularly obvious in our Coffee for Classes sessions where she has helped many homeless and people less fortunate. She’s incredibly supportive, has a massive heart, and is a delight to have in our coffee roastery.”
Chatting with Summah
What was your first-ever coffee job?
“My coffee career began when I was a spring chicken at the age of 17! Back in my hometown Whangarei, New Zealand.
I got a job in a café called Barfly. A cosy spot situated amongst the beautiful natural landscape. This was my first position and one that ignited a great passion for coffee that has followed me until this day.
The owner of Barfly Graham was very particular about the quality of the coffee at the café. I learned a lot from him. He taught me a great deal on espresso, barista techniques, milk, coffee machines, and, well, everything important for a barista! He refined my skills and encouraged me to prioritise high quality and consistency. I’m very grateful that I had such a perfectionist for a teacher for my first coffee job.
Although a lot of things have change in the industry as far as technique and processes go, I still hold a lot of Grahams’ values when it comes to coffee quality. Graham now operates a coffee roastery in New Zealand.”
What’s your first memory of drinking coffee?
“Drinking coffee is actually one of my first memories. Mum would often give me the last mouthful of her coffee. I remember it being so sweet and delicious, turns out it was because she would have 2 sugars in it.
I don’t remember what age I was, but I know I was probably way too young to be drinking coffee… would not recommend it for any parents reading! Mum has always been a big coffee drinker and as soon as I was old enough to boil the kettle she had me making her coffee multiple times a day. I must admit, it was instant coffee… however, that meant no serious skill was needed for my little self. Although in saying that, Mum was very particular about how it was made:
Mum’s coffee recipe:
1 teaspoon of instant coffee
Just the right amount of milk
Then, filled with hot water
And, lastly (but most importantly) in her favourite cup
Not my cup of coffee but hey, each to their own!”
How long have you been a barista?
“Hold onto your seat… coming on 20 years now!
I’ve always worked in hospitality but have done a lot of different roles – barista, manager, waitress, bartender, cleaner, and dishwasher. I loved my barista jobs the best. Coffee was and still is where my passion is.”
What first interested you in coffee?
“Simply put – I enjoyed making something that people enjoyed.
I started being a barista when I was fresh out of school. Like many, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do for a career. But, I quickly discovered I loved connecting with customers. It’s such a great experience chatting with the customers, knowing the regulars and their orders, and making them a delicious coffee that they’re always so happy to receive. Offering a simple moment of joy was incredibly satisfying. I enjoyed it so much that I decided that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my career.”
What do you enjoy most about the industry?
“Hands down – the people and relationships you build.
I’m still friends with a lot of the people I have worked with over the years. I’ve met the most amazing people that have helped me develop my skills in the workplace as well as, have made me the person I am today. Working with people really shapes your character and teaches you important life skills. The coffee industry, in particular, is so warm, welcoming, and encouraging. I can’t think of a more people-orientated industry.”
What have been some of your fondest memories?
“This is a very hard question to answer. I have so many good moments from my career, mostly relating back to the people I have met or worked with. 20 years in the industry, you certainly stock up a lot of memories.
As each year passes, there are more and more good times that are had. From when I worked in my hometown and I was just finding my feet in the hospitality industry. To when I moved around working in pubs, bars, and restaurants in London for 5 years.
Side note: when I was working in London, I met a number of famous people which was very cool: Kelly Osbourn, Amy Winehouse, Pete Doherty, Kate Moss, Noel Fielding to name a few.
And, who could forget the many fond memories I’ve accumulated here in Australia which has led me to my current role as the Barista Trainer at Leaf Bean Machine.”
What do you think is unique about being a Barista/in the coffee industry?
“Short answer – COFFEE.
We get to work with this unique plant that produces seeds that not only caffeinate us (thank god) but also taste amazing. There is so much to learn about coffee, there is so much to enjoy and there’s a whole industry built around this plant. So many hands work together to produce coffee beans; from the farmers, to the brokers, to the coffee roasters, to baristas, and of course to consumers, the coffee chain in its self is mind blowing.”
How come you’ve stayed at Leaf Bean Machine for so long?
“Brad and Fleur are great people to work for. Their values and beliefs fit very closely with my own and I feel I can be myself at work. They are very supportive not only in the workplace but personally as well. The team at LBM is like a family.
I also love my role. I never thought I’d be a teacher as such, but I love helping people on their coffee journey. It’s exciting to help other people get excited about coffee.”
Do you think you’ll ever leave the coffee industry?
“I hope not, I wouldn’t know what to do. Coffee is basically all I know!”
What do you appreciate most about baristas and those in the industry?
“I appreciate the hard work that goes into being a barista. There are a lot of hours spent practicing. It requires a lot of skill to pump out high-quality coffee in a fast-paced environment. It’s not the type of job you want to do if you don’t enjoy it, so I also appreciate the passion that’s needed.”
What does International Coffee Day mean to you?
“If I had my way every day should be International Coffee Day.
I think as consumers we often don’t give much thought to where our coffee comes from. We love the product but sometimes we don’t look beyond the beverage in our hands.
Every coffee should be celebrated for the enormous amount of care given to produce just 1 cup let alone, the millions that are consumed around the world – that is definitely something to celebrate.”
How would you like everyone to spend International Coffee Day?
“I think that if everyone could use this International Coffee Day to learn something new about coffee that would be a day well spent. It could be as simple as trying a new drink style you’ve not had before. Or, using a new coffee gadget. Or maybe… learning about how coffee is farmed or processed! There are so many resources that are available these days (Youtube, blogs, movies, documentaries, podcasts and books), it’s truly wonderful.”
How do you like your coffee?
“I love filter coffee, a nice single origin made using a Moccamaster. In fact, I might grab one now…
Happy International Coffee Day everyone!”