Barista Profile: Bek Freeman
We asked baristas who worked with us at TEDGlobal to profile a bit about their experience. Here’s what they had to say.
Prufrock Coffee, London, UK
Why did you come to collaborate with Coffee Common at TEDGlobal?
I’ve followed TED Talks online for the past couple years and read about Coffee Common’s adventures at TED2011 in Long Beach, so I was excited to hear Coffee Common would be in Edinburgh for TEDGlobal too. It’s a great opportunity to give creative, forward-thinking people an experience with coffee that has the potential to change their whole perception and approach to coffee for good - with the added bonus of a fantastic learning experience, meeting and working alongside some brilliant baristas from around the world.
One thing we hoped to create at TEDGlobal was a paradigm shift in the way people approach coffee. Describe a time when you had a coffee that changed your approach.
At Penny University in London, May 2010. Although I’d followed the growing coffee scene in London for a while and had some great espresso-based drinks, I’ve always preferred filter coffees over milky coffees. Often places brewed it too strong, or too bitter, or it tasted too dark. I hadn’t realized that filter coffee could be so good. Square Mile's Ethiopian Yirgacheffe was a perception-changer. I became kinda addicted to its lime and honey notes in the hot summer. It was followed by the very juicy Kenyan Tegu. This pretty much threw me into a constant quest for incredible coffees.
Which of the coffees did you most enjoy?
Hmm… actually this changed as the coffees changed further from roast date. Highlights over time were Gimme! Coffee’s Finca San Luis (Colombia), Koppi’s Hama Yirgacheffe (Ethiopia), and Ecco Caffe’s Finca La Clara (Costa Rica).
Which barista did you most enjoy working with or learn from at Coffee Common?
Mmm, there’s a stirrer of a question! Honestly though, each barista brought something quite unique, and yet we were on the same page with goals, so I genuinely learned something from everyone. From the disarming charm and chattiness of the Irish to the focus and professionalism of the Greeks (with the ability to party harder), the open-minded, forward thinking Scandinavians and Canadian, and our trio of fearless leaders, as well as the good old London crew. By the end of the week I had some great new friends, and it’s been fantastic continuing the learning since then, with emails flying about random ideas and coffee questions…. I guess at the end of the day, it highlighted again how much Coffee Common is not an event, but a collaboration.
What did you learn during your Coffee Common experience?
I learnt that tea is also very nice (though I still prefer coffee). I learnt that hugs in the workplace are really quite helpful to morale and productivity. I learnt a lot about improving my consumer interaction and even more the importance of knowledge to an information-hungry audience. Also learnt from everyone else’s coffee brewing techniques - though that actually raised more questions to explore!
Describe the best interaction, or reaction, you had with a TEDster in Edinburgh?
Always the moment when someone looks at you in complete surprise after tasting a coffee and says “wow, that tastes like… (strawberries for example)” There were a lot of those at TEDGlobal.
What is a mis-perception or myth in specialty coffee that drives you mad/that you’d like to see changed?
That brewing nice coffee at home takes lots of skill and expensive equipment. Bare essentials, I reckon, are a Brita-style water filter or bottled water (and a means to heat the water of course), a grinder, and a pot of any kind… oh and a spoon or two.
Secondly that a nice pattern on a coffee means it will taste good. Latte art is a bit overrated (though it’s fun). Also diva attitudes amongst baristas… Oh and that coffee brewed later than 2-3 weeks from roast won’t taste good.
What is your response when people ask you “What is Coffee Common?”
Basically, a bunch of baristas from different coffee bars around the world, who work together to show people some amazing coffees and some of the reasons why these coffees are so good.
You can read more about Bek’s adventures in coffee on her blog. BekFreeman.com
And follow her on Twitter: @bekfreeman