Written by Kit Chan
Translated by Venus Purnama
Photos by Kit Chan
Yannis' first cup of coffee was a nightmare. “My grandpa loved to drink coffee. One day he took me to an arcade at Mongkok and I mindlessly ordered an espresso - yuck ! It tasted so disgusting that I almost burst out !”
She was a teenager then, and never tried another sip of coffee for years. The flame rekindled in university, when she worked part-time in a Causeway Bay cafe. Between serving dishes and making drinks at the counter, she started drinking coffee again, first lattes, then black coffee... and she finally liked it.
But it wasn't until a coffee experience in Taiwan that Yannis started delving into the world of coffee. “I saw a barista standing in front of his customer, making coffee with a siphon, easy and relaxed, with the limelight on, as if he was on stage.”
“I want to be an artisan, just like him,” Yannis told herself. She started attending classes after hard days of work, and even joined a barista competition. Although she didn't win, it made her realize that she really loved coffee, and set her goal to be a pro.
Though she gained three and a half years of solid training by working in a coffee chainstore, something was missing. “There were too many customers everyday, I couldn't chat with them, not to mention making friends.”
Last year she moved on to a cosier cafe, working for two Japanese bosses who didn't mind her spending time on a syphon or hand drip coffee. She also spent more time with customers, with so many stories to share: once a gentleman came in and said, “I drank a lousy cup of coffee here a year ago, now I'll give you a second chance.”
Yannis swiftly took out her siphon and made him coffee, putting a smile on his face, and in return, he gave them his coffee notes to share for free.
Surprisingly, being a barista also changed her perspectives. She used to insist that coffee should be drank without sugar or milk, to taste the real essence of the beans. “Whenever customers ask, I would just bluntly tell them: we don't serve milk or sugar.” But at times she would find cups of coffee left untouched or unfinished on the table.
She thought of what a mentor once asked her: are you making coffee for yourself, or for others? If they really prefer coffee with some milk or sugar, why not?
“My taste may not be the right taste for everyone.” As she tries to understand the fine line between taking a stand and letting loose, she learnt other things that are more important than coffee.
Address: Café Life, S106, 1/F, Staunton, PMQ