Can you tell us a bit about your background - what you do, how you're involved in the cocktail scene?
I am the UK Brand Ambassador for Tia Maria which I’ve now been doing for 2 years. When Tia Maria launched The Coffee Project at London Cocktail Week 2016, they began looking for someone who had a background in both coffee and cocktails as these two industries form the fundamental basis of the project. Having enjoyed a career in both, with a huge passion and knowledge for each, it seemed like a perfect opportunity for me.
Most of my time is split between creating cocktails, designing seminars/training sessions, and travelling the UK (and parts of Europe and the US) to meet, teach and talk to bartenders, baristas, consumers, basically anyone who will listen to me, about coffee cocktails and how to make them better.
How did you develop a particular interest in coffee and cocktails?
I have always been in love with all things food and drink. I was originally planning to train as a chef but then simultaneously fell in love with FOH work, bartending and barista work.
Growing up and starting my career in Australia helped kickstart to my love of all things caffeine and I've loved the world of cocktails since I was old enough to enjoy them! Theyjust seemed so elegant, delicate, wild and fun all at once. Moving to Melbourne when I turned 18, I started working at Crown Casino as a jack-of-all-trades, learning every aspect of Hospitality from the floor, to the kitchen, coffee, cocktails and anything else. When I moved to the UK, I was confused that 'bartenders' weren't expected to know coffee and vice versa for baristas and cocktails.
How have coffee cocktails evolved over the years?
With the rise of speciality coffee across the globe in the last few years, bartenders have begun to utilise the incredible and versatile ingredient that is 'coffee'. Instead of defaulting to just espresso as the 'coffee element', they are starting to experiment with different extraction/brewing techniques and especially beans from different origins. We are still seeing the emerging boom for the 'coffee cocktail' category and it's exciting to see where it will go next.
Can you talk about late-night cafe culture in London? Is the trend growing?
I have noticed there are quite a few coffee shop/cocktail bars emerging in London. Especially with the opening of Shoreditch Grind in 2011 and the Grind group expanding, it brought the possibility, the option of the dual opening hours to the forefront of the industry.
With the mentality of being able to be able to open for more hours, making more money on space your paying rent for anyway, the rise and attraction of the low/no-abv generation, and to expand the repertoire of your business, I would expect to see a lot more late-night cafes opening in the future. We ourselves run both Trade and Consumer Tia Maria Coffee Academies in Bermondsey Coffee Shop / Cocktail Bar, Chapter 72.
We will actually be hosting a seminar at London Coffee Festival ‘From Coffee Bar to Cocktail Shop’ on Fri 29 March 17:30 – 17:55 in the Lab with Rod Eslamieh, Chapter 72 to discuss this emerging culture and how he embarked upon the journey of the bar.
In your opinion, should cafes stay open later?
In other parts of the world, late night cafes are already part of the norm. I believe there is certainly a demand for cafes in the UK to stay open later and would love to see more places you can go for a simple coffee or a coffee cocktail and a chat in the evening - but only if it makes sense to your clientele and market. Don't push it, just to keep up with the trends.