July 29th, 2011

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.

Bek Freeman

Bek Freeman


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

March 8th, 2011

Barista Report: Laila Ghambari

[We sent a few questions out to the baristas who participated in the launch of Coffee Common at TED2011, here’s what they had to say…]

Coffee Common - Day 4

Laila Ghambari, Seattle, Wa, USA
Stumptown Coffee Roasters

Why did you come to the Coffee Common event at TED?
Initially, just getting to be at TED was enough for me to say yes. To be surrounded by intelligent and innovative people sounded thrilling. Then, as the branding and idea behind Coffee Common progressed, I realized what a great platform it was for specialty coffee. Getting to serve exceptional coffees to a room full of people who were eager to be inspired. I got to talk about something I love to people who wanted to listen.

What was your favorite interaction or reaction (re: the coffee) at TED?
I served a man a Kenya, Mamuto espresso from Terroir. As I prepared it I talked to him about this beautiful coffee, the touching story of how the farm was named, and some of the delicious tasting notes. Just so happened he was leaving to Kenya in few weeks for some sort of volunteer work. I told him about the video Stumptown had just posted and he immediately opened up his laptop and watched it. He enjoyed a Kenyan espresso roasted by Terroir while watching a video about coffee in Kenya from Stumptown. It was a perfect picture of the purpose of the Coffee Common.

What is one prevalent coffee myth that you would like to set straight?
That coffee is delicious all on its own. People submit themselves to poor coffees and so they need cream and sugar to make it tolerable. When great coffees are bought by great roasters and put into the hands of great baristas, the integrity of the coffee is kept intact every step of the way. No additives needed.

Which of the TED Talk speakers would you most like to have coffee with?
I would love to have coffee with the poet Sarah Kay. The cadence of her speech combined with the theatrics of her facial expression and hand gestures were memorizing. I could listen to that girl talk all day.  

What would you like to see Coffee Common do in the future?
I would like to see a mission statement. Then I would like to see this go further than ever imagined. Conferences, music festivals, beaches, a CC Street Team serving coffee with a message and exposing people to something they might not know even exists. All while maintaining that original mission statement.

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