I know you’ve been dying to meet the team behind those incredible Sacred Grounds beans! Well now you can. On our blog, right here, right now, we’re http://acheterdufrance.com/ starting a series called ‘Meet the Team’ where you can gain an all access pass behind the scenes of Sacred Grounds and get to know the stories of our amazing people. First up is our Key Account Manager and Head Trainer, Dee Alam.
Dee is our go to person for all things cafe, all our barista’s at Sacred Grounds partner cafes would have met Dee! She’s a people person with an endless obsession for all things coffee. Here’s her story…
Dee started her Sacred Grounds journey in 2014. Years before, way back in 2009, Dee scored her first job in a cafe initially serving coffee, and then learning how to use a coffee machine. At the dawn of Dee’s career, making coffee was just something you did – it was a mechanical process that didn’t require much thought… press a button and hey presto there’s a coffee shot!
At first her love for coffee was ignited by the social side of being a barista, connecting with people and the satisfaction of giving them exactly what they needed. But then she experienced a light bulb moment (or series of moments) where coffee making went from being just another job to a passion with a deep appreciation of all the complexities that go along with the coffee making process.
Skills to Pay the Bills
It was actually the day Dee’s coffee was evaluated for the first time, that she became more conscious of the steps and processes involved in making a good cup of coffee. Yep, Dee had caught the coffee ‘bug’ and so she began the arduous process of teaching herself by reading barista guides, learning from colleagues and letting her own palate guide her.
This determination and strong work ethic was something she had learnt from her family and her time spent living in Lebanon in her early teen years. It helped her push through this difficult learning process born out of, as Dee puts it, “A lot of trial and error”. This can sometimes be an extremely frustrating process that is familiar to most baristas.
Building Barista Brilliance
Dee built on this honing process even further when she started at Sacred Grounds, “I knew a lot about the barista end of coffee but not about the other parts of the process”. Dee said that the first few months at Sacred Grounds was spent listening and absorbing the communal knowledge of the business, especially about coffee processes at the origin.
Dee has also found that “building relationships with different companies who have different views and knowledge” has rounded out her knowledge when it comes to the world of coffee. She says that listening to what others say and being open to new ideas and methods is the key. This flexibility means that Dee really isn’t the kind of person to say, “the way you’re making coffee is wrong, this is the right way” – in her mind this kind of attitude isn’t constructive and conducive to innovation.
Q & A with Dee
What part of the industry interests you most?
At the origin – how the processing techniques can influence the flavour of the coffee, how producers are innovating the way they grow and process coffee cherries and the science behind it.
Roasting – similarly to how the beans are processed at origin, the roasting process has a hugely significant impact on what flavours you draw out of the beans.
How do you brew at home?
Mostly filter. I use a V60 and on occasion an AeroPress at home, I love it because of the “clarity” of taste and the quality of the brew. Like many before me, my first great experience with filter was with a single origin Ethiopian which inspired me to appreciate the different flavours that can be found in coffee. I still love the Ethiopian to this day.
What’s your advice to baristas?
Don’t be a coffee snob – be open, experiment and brew to your individual taste. Have passion – if you’re interested and excited about what you do, then so will your customers. Spend time building on your knowledge and continuously educating yourself, we are part of an ever changing industry, which is exciting and inspiring. I highly recommend any books by Scott Rao as a starting point.
What is your advice to home brewers?
Don’t be afraid to step outside the brew ratios you find online. You should decide what you like and conduct your own experiments. Grind your own coffee consistently. The grind size will affect the extraction and therefore how it tastes.
Where to start?
Best way to discover what you like is with origins. Each one has dominant flavours – once you know whether you like floral or chocolatey or sweet tasting origins then you’ll have a better idea. Blends are great, however if you want to go further and experiment with flavours then Single Origin is the way to go.
What do you love about Sacred Grounds?
I love Sacred Grounds’ passion for sourcing products with ethical and sustainable substance. We know the environmental impact of our coffee on the planet and it has opened my eyes to the channels available to helping and alleviating issues facing the coffee industry, such as sustainability. I also like the opportunity to team up with larger organisations that are working to do good.
We’re not a massive giant, we’re a company very much made up of the people who work here – we have heart and we are passionate. For our customers, you’re not just paying for coffee, you’re getting the interaction with the whole Sacred Grounds team and with our passion!
Dee’s Top Tips to Building Coffee Knowledge…
- Be curious
- Ask questions when you’re not sure
- Listen to podcasts, read articles and most importantly talk to others who have a greater knowledge.
Here’s Dee in action
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