from Tarra Samuelson
Day 3, 4 and 5- Training
One main objective of my trip was to teach barista skills. Having been a barista for two years now, and much teaching experience outside this field, educating others about specialty coffee combines two passions of mine. Working with the “Alianza de Mujeres en Café,” or International Women’s Coffee Alliance, El Salvador chapter, Heather and I taught espresso and milk basics for roughly three days. Held at the “Consejo,” three groups of 18 women (with the inclusion of two men) were taught how to advance their barista skills. Espresso training, which Heather taught, included learning what espresso is, how it is properly created, the various parts of the grinder and the machine, and what sensory characteristic constitute good espresso. Milk training, which I taught, included the difference in steaming milk (for lattes) and foaming milk (for cappuccinos), as well as how to create hearts, rosettas, and tulips for latte art. Just the day before, we had done a home-brewing demo, but the format was much different. We explained how to use the Chemex, Clever, and French Press while doing so in front of a seated audience. These tutorials, however, were much more intimate because each person in the group received individual attention working with us.
At first I went over the basics of milk- how proteins in fat are needed to foam, what steamed milk is, what foamed milk is, and how to determine when the milk has reached proper temperature. One by one, each student steamed for both a latte and a cappuccino. After this, we proceeded to learn and practice latte art. All a matter of technique, we practiced pouring hearts over and over and over again. Here though, is when comradery was most created within the group. Those that accomplished latte art went to help those who needed a little more practice. “Wonky” latte art figures were always formed and made us all laugh and join together even more. We held latte art competitions and challenged each other to combine figures together. Each student seemed really appreciative to be there and were incredibly patient with me as their instructor. I walked away realizing how hard working all these students were, many having just come from a night shift. Many “gracias” and “buena suerte” were exchanged at the end, and I’m hoping all took away a better sense of their trade. Making the situation just a little sweeter, it was my 22nd birthday that day. I had no intentions of saying anything, but Lucia broke the news and I was sung happy birthday by all these students. A “softie” as one might say, I was enamored, delighted, but most of all, honored. I think that photo of me blushing pretty profusely might demonstrate how I felt at that moment.
Something that got my attention was the demographic of students there. Many worked at “On-the-Go,” a café within the numerous Puma gas stations. Unlike our gas station coffees, “On-the-Go” cafes are much more “authentic” and much less automated to say the least. Other students were from The Coffee Cup, a very popular Central American café chain. Coffee could certainly be considered a man’s industry, especially since it seems like many world and national winners are men. Yet, many of the in-store baristas are women and this explain why all but two of our students were females. As I already stated, I am a women’s studies major, so I couldn’t help but find this imbalance in gendered occupation curious. None-the-less, it was a joy to teach all these women (and two men). Through our efforts, we raised enough money to buy 60 water filters that will be installed in schools. Ultimately, this will provide 12,000 children in El Salvador with safe drinking water. A huge accomplishment, I’m humbled by how far our efforts reached.
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