Did you know? That coffee is the second most traded commodity in the world? No? It is also estimated that 1.6 billion cups of coffee are consumed worldwide per day (although just based on one of my friend’s daily consumption, I’m sure this is a major under-estimation ha ha!). As it turns out, these are also facts that demonstrate my evident lack of knowledge.
Therefore, as part of my ongoing exploration of the culinary world, and in addition to my usual restaurant posts, I will be including a few write-ups on some of the food and drink classes that are available in, and around, Cardiff. After all, ‘to explore is to educate’.
Recently, I was invited by 200 Degrees in Cardiff, to experience their Barista School. Run on a monthly basis, classes range from Basic and Intermediate Barista, to more specialised courses in home brewing and latte art.
Being a novice coffee lover, at best, and an uncouth sachet coffee drinker at my ‘head hung in shame’ worst, I opted to bypass the advanced latte art at this stage, in favour of the basic barista class. Aimed at both the home enthusiast who wants to increase their knowledge and skills, and for individuals who are, or wish to work, within the hospitality industry; it was great to see that you didn’t require any specific prior knowledge to participate. Perfect!
With the class kicking off at 10am, it provided me with the opportunity to sit back and relax in the comfort of 200 Degrees’ coffee shop downstairs. Spacious, but at the same time comfortable, and with a homely feel – it’s a great place to chill out with friends, or simply while away the hours with a favourite book, sampling the array of coffee and sweet treats on offer.
Ahh…the sweet treats – aside from the range of coffees, hot chocolate, tea and milkshakes; you can also find accompanying cakes and pastries such as lemon and courgette loaf, pain au raisin, lemon meringue doughnuts, honeycomb rocky road and granola slices.
Hot chocolate and pain au chocolat aka breakfast…oops
Heading upstairs, our teacher for the day is experienced Head Barista, Joe…a glimpse of his Instagram page and you know you’re in safe hands. With introductions complete, class is in session, and I’m transported back to my own student days of (personally excessive) note-taking! Although on this occasion, I have to say the subject matter is of much more interest.
From coffee facts (and possibly some fiction in the form of how coffee was discovered – although I’m all for a story about dancing goats!), to the differences in espresso-based drinks; I am shocked at how little I actually know about a beverage, which I have been consuming for the best part of two decades. And while Joe carefully explains each type, I find my mind swimming in the espresso:milk ratios for a flat white, cappuccino, macchiato, mocha, latte, ristretto, piccolo, and americano (argh…whatever happened to just ordering ‘a cup of coffee’).
Pre-barista class | this board is my nemesis…hot chocolate anyone?
As it turns out, Joe’s extensive coffee knowledge, and the ease with which he disseminates it, ensures that even my ‘shocking’ memory, retains the salient points. And as we explore the world’s coffee belt, the changing taste of coffee by continent, and the processes of washing, drying and roasting – I have to say I am impressed, and not just by the fact the world’s most expensive coffee ‘Hacienda La Esmeralda’ from Panama, comes in at a whopping £100 per filter!
However, when they say there is a science to the art of coffee, they aren’t kidding. As it turns out coffee-making is an art form, and I am not just talking about the elegant swan swimming on top of your latte. I sit in awe, as Joe explains the processes he goes through to ensure customers receive a perfect cup. From weight to water temperature, extraction time, consistent beds, channeling and avoiding cracks…there is so much more to this, than adding a spoonful of Nescafé into your mug!
One element that requires more manual input, is that of tamping (yes…if you say this in a Welsh accent, it does mean something completely different!) Explained as an important process, it compresses the coffee grinds and evenly distributes them. Now pay attention…here comes the science. When hot water is forced through the coffee grinds at high pressure, the water will always seek out the path of least resistance, so it’s integral to ensure that the grounds are tamped well and evenly, so you achieve a proper extraction…phew!
Ok, so these are photos of the professional; based on my bitter espresso, it’s clear to me, and every other person in the class (going by my grimace), that I haven’t quite got my tamping technique down to a tee…as yet.
TIP | Ideal extraction, should take between 25 and 30 seconds
This was artfully demonstrated through the ‘Salami Shot’ exercise. Essentially an ‘espresso timeline’; six shots of espresso are expertly extracted over a period of 30 seconds. To put it basically, Joe demonstrates that to tackle an espresso after 0-10 seconds of extraction, you may as well be drinking seawater, while at the other end of the scale, after 30 seconds, you can expect a similar facial reaction to my ‘amazing’ attempt above! The sweet (or should I say caramel) spot is somewhere in between, at around the 25 second mark, where you end up with the ideal balance.
As the class draws to a close, there is also the opportunity to practice a little latte art. Ok, so at this stage we aren’t talking rosettas, tulips or even Stormtroopers (go ahead and google that…wow!), However, Joe lets a few of us loose on the milk frother, and before we know it there are hearts adorning our espressos.
I have to say the barista class at 200 Degrees certainly opened my eyes up to the world of coffee. With combined teaching and hands on activities, not only can you relish in the fact you are learning a new skill, but after this I can assure you making that coffee selection (with a mile long queue behind you) will prove a much easier, and less stressful task! Goodbye hot chocolate…hello cortado!
- Clearly with any city/town/hamlet there will always be the coffee house ‘chains’, and yes they have their place…but take one step into an independent such as 200 Degrees and you can see the difference, and more importantly taste the difference.
- The upstairs Barista School, also doubles up as a meeting room that can be utilised by local businesses. Great to know, especially when the top notch coffee and pastry offering downstairs, will more than satisfy (or impress) for those mid-meeting breaks.
- If you fancy a laugh, check out 200 Degrees exterior blackboard messages – some of my faves include ‘A day may come when I get enough sleep, and don’t need coffee. But it is not this day’, and rather more randomly ‘Technically we’re all half centaur’ – if you say so 200 Degrees…if you say so!
200 Degrees Barista School | Facts & Figures
If you are a budding barista, or simply want to discover more about coffee, the barista school classes run on a monthly basis. Please refer to the 200 Degrees website for further course information, dates and how to book in Cardiff.
Basic Barista | £75 per person (3 hours)
Intermediate Barista | £85 per person (3 hours)
Home Brew | £45 per person (2.5 hours)
Latte Art | £95 per person (3 hours)
Classes start at 10am.
200 Degrees, Cardiff Coffee House | Opening Times
Mon to Fri – 7am to 8pm
Sat – 8am to 7pm
Sun – 9.30am to 6pm
Address | 115 Queens Street, Cardiff, CF10 2BH
Web | 200degs.com
I was invited by 200 Degrees in Cardiff, to experience their Barista School as a guest.