Saturday, 15 April 2017

200 Degrees - Barista School - Leeds

If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter you may have seen my pitiful attempts at Latte Art, they are hardly masterpieces and more often than not replicate the sort of view you would see on a psychologists ink blot test.

Admittedly I have attended a barista class before now at Layne’s but Latte Art was a separate class to be followed by the initial introduction, so I struggled on. Always eager to more and thrilled to know that 200 Degrees' barista class included an introduction to Latte Art I gladly accepted an invitation to try them out. There are some overlaps between the introductory classes from Laynes and 200 Degrees however the latter structure their courses a little differently. There is still an introduction on bean-to-cup with additional classes marketed at intermediate and advanced. Despite not going in to as much details as my first class with Laynes I can see the benefit of structuring it in this way, if you're a complete novice and know zero zilch about coffee 200 degrees' introductory course would aimed at the correct level for you.

200 Degrees have a purpose made space upstairs above the main coffee house, they have invested time and thought in to training and teaching people about coffee. The espresso machines and grinders are not the top spec that the fully trained baristas use downstairs but this doesn’t mean they’re bottom of the range either, if you were to buy one yourself the grinder would set you back around £800 and the espresso machine a tidy £3K.  

First up on the course is a powerpoint presentation which gives you a basic understanding of where your coffee comes from, the differences between coffee varieties, the differences in tastes and how the bean gets in to your cup (I won’t go in to detail but you can get a brief overview from my post here or you can pop along for the course yourself!).

At the end of powerpoint you’re raring to go and desperate to have a go at making your very own perfect cup of Joe (or at least I was). I didn’t get too much hands on experience at Laynes (probably because the demonstration takes place on their VERY expensive machines) but here we were set free to give it a whirl.

The technicalities of grind, water, time, heat and many over variables that affect your espresso were lightly brushed over but we got the hint that these made a difference. I was fully aware of this having been witness to a barista throwing many espressos away after ‘something’ not being quite right and then it being corrected before giving me my perfect coffee, the way it should be! (if you’re not in a rush and already late for that really important/not very important meeting).

With full Saturday brain in mode I kept finding myself concentrating so much on what I was doing with the inserting of the ground coffee in to the machine that I kept forgetting to put the cup under the espresso tap (this is 100% not the correct term) but thankfully my teammates kept shouting ‘CUP’ each time and so thankfully no coffee was wasted.

Crap attempt 

My first attempts at latte art were a disaster. The milk steamer being so hot and steamy had me scared and I didn’t heat my milk up enough for it become that lovely velvety foam needed to make a tulip, heart, genie’s lamp, tiger etc. in my cup.

Things picked up as I went along but I was mainly freestyling it as I literally had no idea what I was supposed to be doing with my hands to make those work of arts the baristas grace us with.

Examples of my attempts:

Towards the end of the session there was talks of a local based latte art competition, there are national and world wide events (see here). Looking forward to seeing Leeds' own latte art competition between the craft coffee shops (wink wink / hint hint / get on it ASAP).

Our classes's latte attempts 

Although there were a lot of overlap between the course at 200 degrees and the course at Laynes I'm still glad I went as I didn't leave thinking "I didn't learn anything from that", I did learn a few things, namely in relation to Latte Art and also with regard 200 degrees itself and the people that are championing coffee.

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