Career Insights: Sonja GrantCareer Insights, For Baristas | May 26, 2015
What is your job title?
Hmmm,..yes, what is my job title? is a bit complicated…these days I’m a presenter of all kinds of seminars about coffee, I’m a barista and a barista trainer, roaster, founder and CEO of Kaffibrugghúsid, SCAE Regional Coordinator for the Scandinavian countries. A SCAE Judges Education Co- ordinator, so I do Judges Certifications in Europe. But most of my time goes into volunteer work for WCE as a international judge and WCE Representative.
How long have you worked in coffee?
I’m in my 20th year working with coffee, and I can hardly believe it, it has been such crazy and inspiring time…in good way.
What was your first job in coffee?
I was hired 20 years ago, as a barista in a very small specialty roaster here in Iceland. Kaffitár. It was owned by a very inspiring lady so I was hooked very quickly on the coffee industry. I was a staff member number 5. At that time this small company but grew very quickly. I stayed for 14 years and we opened few coffee shops and the staff group grew into 140 people. I was working in their first coffee shop, a 13 square meters space with espresso machine, batch brew and retail of coffee beans. A concept that had not been done before in Iceland, in that quality of drinks and service. I loved every minute of it. I did not know I was good at it, because my profession is carpentry and I had never worked in service and standing in front of coffee guests before. So It was pleasant surprise that I really enjoy it.
Do you remember the moment that you decided that you wanted to make coffee a career?
Not sure If I remember any specific moment, but I think that when I understood how much passion ( I know a overused word) and hard work was behind the cup of coffee, I got interested. And to understand that the link from the farmer to the consumer was not really connected…at least 1995 in Iceland, nobody was thinking about the farmer. So for me this was a project to introduce what was behind the good cup of coffee. And I love projects! And then my boss, Addý, took me to SCAA shows where I got to know amazing professionals in coffee, and everybody knew so much…and I so little. So it was a challenge for me and demanding me to learn, so I liked it and got stuck with being in love with the coffee industry….still today.
How did you act on this decision?
Maybe the answer to this one is combine with my last answer…?
What has been the most valuable investment you’ve made into your own career?
This is a difficult question…but I think I would say, that my 15 years of volunteer work with the championships, has made my life what it is today. All my holidays for 15 years included organising, judging, training judges or thinking about championships. It made me frustrated, happy, sad, excited, inspired and on the way through that journey I met the most interesting and Inspiring people from all around the world. I have always had huge interest in people and I learnt so much from the coffee people. From the farmers, drivers, baristas, roasters, journalists, bloggers, photographers and the coffee guests enjoying the cup of coffee…so much informations and endless possibilities to learn more, not only about coffee but life.
What advice would you give to someone that wants to transition from being a barista into another role in coffee?
I personally think that being a baristas is not only to work on shifts behind the bar, it is more complex in my opinion. Good and serious baristas have high ambitions and have awareness from bean to cup. They are interested in people.. A barista can be subscribed to his salary and not making any progress or he could participate in making something interesting with ambitious mind…and getting paid while doing it. To ask the question “why” gives baristas good opportunity to learn, not only about coffee but also about people and different culture. I always think about my self as a barista, although I have not worked behind the bar for two years. But of course It is not for everybody to be humble and enjoy to make coffee and serve it to your coffee guests….Why would the barista want to stop being a barista? It is normal for any job that we need to get inspired by something…and in coffee we have so many areas to get inspired by.
What advice would you give yourself, if you could go back to your first coffee job?
To prepare for an interesting journey of flavours, culture and unexpected situations. To prepare to make coffee for coffee guests that are most of the time happy, but sometimes sad and angry and the art of dealing with it. To prepare for the responsibility of handling products from small producers. To understand that being a barista is complex job, with endless search for a good cup of coffee, and it will never be perfect, witch is the fun part. And to understand that if you are more prepared and eager to learn you enjoy and get more out of your work as a professional coffee lover.