Recently I’ve noticed a bit of discussion about “qualifications” in coffee related subjects such as barista training or coffee roasting. As things stand there are no internationally recognised formal courses in things coffee-ish, but this may be changing. In Australia there are a number of privately run Coffee Training schools and courses, of which the Lavazza one has probably been around the longest. The Coffee Academy at the William Angliss Institute of Technical and Further Education in Melbourne is more than somewhat different, though.
Supported by both private sponsorship (Douwe Egberts, a Sara Lee company) and the State Government, it provides a formal curriculum in coffee training with recognised credits towards University degrees and diplomas in tourism, hospitality management and food technology. The credits are also available to other Australian universities. I thought it was about time I found out exactly what went on at a coffee academy, so I contacted the manager, Jill Adams, and had an interesting chat with her.
Vivacious Jill Adams, manager of the Coffee Academy
According to Jill, what the Academy aims to accomplish is to raise the level of knowledge and competence of Australian Baristas, and improve the overall coffee standards generally. Formal training and assessment is offered to students in hospitality courses at William Angliss, current and future employees in the industry, and interested members of the general public.
What this means in practice is that anyone (and I mean anyone, there are no course pre-requisites) can sign up for a 30 hour course and come out of it at the end with a formal, recognised qualification and basic coffee knowledge and barista skills. The cost of this course is A$200.00, and if you’re employing or employed in the industry it’s tax deductible. The syllabus leans heavily towards the espresso end of the business, but also covers topics such as growing, processing, roasting (in an Alp and a popper, no less!), tasting, bean species and varietals.
The course consists of 10 hours of “face to face” instruction and 20 hours of work experience, research and assessment, making it a bit of a bargain at the price. There are 6 x 2-group auto machines with matching grinders for the students to work at, and class sizes are small to ensure maximum “hands-on” experience. The actual instruction is divided into 6 “Elements” which cover everything from correct bean storage to how to make and serve a varied drinks order the right way.
First view inside the Academy
The machines are all San Marinos supplied by the sponsor
and the grinders are standard CME models.
My take on the course layout is that it covers all the basics, and (apart from the Khaldi legend) doesn’t convey any MIS-information to the students, which can be just as important. Students who complete the course successfully aren’t going to be “instant baristas”, but will certainly have the necessary skills and knowledge to develop into competent ones. One of the things that Jill stresses is that students learn not just what to do but why they’re doing it, so they are not just pulling shots by rote. I have to say that having this sort of course on your resume would have to make you a whole lot more employable in the Café industry as well. I just wish something like this had been around when I was getting started in the business.
As well as the major course, the Academy also conducts “short courses” on a variety of coffee subjects; these are aimed more at the “general public” side of things and don’t carry the official recognition. They also carry out “in house” employee training sessions at employer’s shops when required. In the near future there will be a longer (60 hour) course with more in depth coverage and “on-the-job” training, at a higher cost (A$450.00).
Jill is currently hard at work on a complete training DVD which will cover the whole industry from grower to cup; she’s soon heading off to film the coffee harvest in Northern Queensland as part of this. This DVD is intended to be available for sale to both the trade and the public as part of the overall effort to improve coffee standards in Australia.
As I understand things, the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s Barista Certification program is competition based, and is not formally recognised. The Coffee Academy is NOT aiming to turn out Barista Champions, rather competent bar staff who can make decent espresso beverages correctly and efficiently. The employer benefits by having well trained staff, and the employee benefits by having a professional qualification, officially recognised (by the Australian National Training Authority) throughout Australia.
My opinion is that this sort of training is ideally suited to a country where even the “Mum & Pop” corner milk bars and hot bread shops have espresso machines, and it can be of immense benefit to both new and established members of the industry. It’s focused, practical, and emphasises the basic knowledge and skills needed to produce consistently excellent coffee.
Jill Adams Phone +61 3 9606 2401 Manager - Coffee Academy Fax +61 3 9606 2141 William Angliss Institute of TAFE http://www.angliss.vic.edu.au 555 LaTrobe St. Melbourne Victoria 3000 Australia