The Autumn Rooms barista shares with us his love for coffee
I don’t think it’s too much to ask for a $15 cup of quality coffee. Especially when it’s coming from boutique farms where the farmers dedicated their whole life to that one crop and produce only 100 kilos a year of their speciality coffee.See our handpicked guides to Newcastle
How is it that a 19-year-old can possibly know so much about coffee, or drink 8 glasses of it a day? You may be familiar with the big guy behind the counter
at The Autumn Rooms on Darby St, Francis Elliott is his name and
coffee expert he is.
Keen to learn a little more about Francis we took a seat, ordered a Single O and had a coffee chat.
How did your love of coffee first begin?
I started working in cafes when I was 15 and worked my way up to making coffee when I was 16. I working at another café when I first visited The Autumn Rooms, which also happened to be the same week that Ben (the owner) bought it. I ordered a single origin espresso and we started chatting and Ben mentioned he was looking for a barista. After chatting with Ben and seeing what he was doing here with the equipment, coffee and care for the industry I decided this is where I wanted to be.
So has all of your barista training happened here in Newcastle?
I’ve always lived in Newcastle but I’ve trained down in Melbourne and go on holidays there a lot, last year I went four times, mostly to drink the coffee.
Each year they have the Melbourne International Coffee Expo (MICE), I’ve been the last two years, it's really good. They get a lot of industry people in from all over the world to come and talk about coffee, how it’s evolving and how we can evolve with it. It’s such a new industry and it’s changing so fast that it’s good to get other people’s opinions and their thoughts about it.
By new do you mean new globally or new within Australia?
I’d say globally, compared to wine which has been around for thousands of years. The first coffee plant was exported out of Ethiopia only 400 years ago, which is super new compared to thousands of years cultivating grapes, and it’s equally as complex.
What was the one take out from the most recent MICE event?
The way you extract coffee changes every year, last year freezing coffee was massive, before you extract it that is, and there’s a big debate around coffee temperature. The processing of coffee is also a really experimental thing at the moment. Until recently there’s only been three ways of processing coffee [honey, washed and the natural process] now there’s hundreds of experimental ways that you can process it.
Speciality coffee is also a big thing and something I am really passionate about. The coffee we have here at the Autumn Rooms is some of the first in Australia. Like the La Palma and El Tucan which is a $12 espresso and we've had a $20 filter coffee on called the Wush Wush which is a Columbian coffee. Proud Mary’s, who we source all our beans from, has exclusivity over it for two years, it’s been processed naturally so you get a lot of the fruit flavours and the dried fermentation of the fruit, which makes sense when you taste it.
Are people up for paying $20 a coffee these days?
People are loving it but being a new industry it’s about education and explaining why it’s an expensive coffee and a boutique product that has been cared for. That’s why we supply the postcards that give the story of the farmers.
Even in the last couple of months I’ve seen a massive growth in single origin, batch brew and V60’s. When I first started working here 12 months ago we were encouraging customers to try single origin coffee and educating them about it, but now people are asking for it.
I compare it to a nice glass of wine, some people spend $120 on a bottle so I don’t think it’s too much to ask for a $15 cup of quality coffee. Especially when it’s sourced from boutique farms where it’s the farmers whole world and they've dedicated their life to that one crop, and in a lot of cases these farms only produce around 100 kilos a year of their speciality coffee.
What made you fall in love coffee at such a young age?
My brother is a good barista, he was from Brisbane but now lives in Norway and Norway’s very big for coffee as well. He kind of put the thought in my head and I didn’t want to go to school anymore so I had to find a job and that’s when I started working in the café, and I loved it.
My families pretty involved in coffee too, mum loves coffee, not speciality though but I am trying to change her.
I’ve also been super passionate about hospitality, I’ve been cooking since I was really young and I actually thought that’s what I would do when I first started working, more the back of house. But then I fell in love with the coffee, I love the attention to detail that’s required and the way you can manipulate the flavours.
How many coffees a day would you normally drink?
Eight normally, which isn’t much. If I went to MICE for the day or did a coffee tour in Melbourne I’d have about 30 in a day.
That's a lot of coffee, how do you sleep at night?
Coffee doesn’t seem to affect me anymore, on my days off I don’t usually drink it and I don’t suffer any side effects, no headaches or anything like that.
And do you have a preferred coffee flavour?
There’s no favourite, it depends on the coffee itself. If I have a milk coffee I have a flat white and with filtered coffees, I have a sweet spot for an Ethiopian because it is sweet, floral and stone fruity. But every coffees different so you’ve got to treat it differently.
Do you consider being a barista your career choice?
Yeah definitely, career hospo. The money’s good and if you are skilled at it you get paid well. I am always trying to learn new things, there’s always more books and blogs to read to improve your skills and knowledge.
Do you have aspirations to own your own café one day?
I am not really sure about that. Owning a café means it can take your focus away from the coffee as you’ve got to consider the bigger picture of the business so at the moment I am happy to be a barista, but I've got plenty of time to work that out.
And where are your Melbourne coffee go-to’s?
It’s always changing but I would say Patricia Coffee Brewers is probably my favourite, it’s super coffee orientated, they don’t do food just pastries, and you’ve got to stand up to drink your coffee and there’s always a queue of people down the street or sitting on crates it’s crazy.