The art of being worth your weight in coffee

Programme coordinator Marco Guimaraes at the training coffee machine at Wintec

Image: Marco Guimaraes making a latte at one of the training coffee machines at the Wintec Rotokauri campus.

Growing numbers of Waikato secondary school students are signing up to learn the fine art of creating the perfect espresso.

In 2019, 94 high school students have experienced barista training at Wintec. There are two STAR courses that teach barista skills, spread out over five days or one day. These give a hands-on and practical taster with just a dash of theory coordinated by tutor Marco Guimaraes, a native of Brazil raised with a love of all things coffee.

“On the five day course, the students come in once a week for five weeks, and four of those days are spent on the coffee machines. We start with the basics of making coffee and end with the practical assessment.”

“All the students love being behind the machine. As they learn and get better, we move on to new coffees. They always want to make patterns, mochas and iced coffees but we have to make sure they also perfect the basics.

“It sounds so simple but there’s actually a lot more to it. You have to learn how to extract a good shot, how to grind the beans, how to texture the milk, how to work the grinder and how the ground coffee impacts the extraction.”

It’s not only high school students that can make the most of this training; adults have the option to attend intensive barista training over a full day or across two evenings. Marco himself started off his hospitality career as a waiter, and he admits that there is more to it than grinding coffee beans.

“When you work in this industry you need to be able to understand verbal and non-verbal communication, how to empathise with people and how to speak properly.”

Coffee beans are one of the most traded agricultural commodities in the world and New Zealanders are ranked as the 13th highest consumers according to recent studies. Barista skills can open doors all over the world, and can help with work opportunities overseas.

“If you want to have a successful cafe, you have to have a good coffee. When the students leave the course here they have a good knowledge of how to do that. The next stage is either the Food and Beverage Level 3 course or a part-time job.”

Making the perfect coffeeThe perfect latte, served in a glass, photographed atop one of the well-worked coffee machines at Wintec’s Rotokauri campus.

The secret to a perfect coffee, says Guimaraes, lies in the beans.

“It’s about the quality of the soil where they were grown. Usually you can tell by the smell if they are good beans, and I like to see quite an oily coating because that’s what gives you the taste. Then there are things like the roast and the blend, which lets you choose the mixture you like. That is where this industry is going.”

Find out more about Secondary School STAR courses at Wintec.

Find out more about the short barista training for adults at Wintec.

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