Coffee Specialist as a Lifestyle
For Lauri Pipinen and Julia Reinhard coffee is a job, hobby and passion. Both still try to make sure there's also more to life than coffee.
The hum of the coffee machine mixes with the mellow jazz playing in the background. A splendid smell of coffee wafts towards you when baristas Lauri Pipinen and Julia Reinhard are busy working behind the counter.
While Reinhard is making a cappuccino, Pipinen is asking a customer how they are today. They see many familiar faces from over the years as the majority of the customers of Good Life Coffee opened by Lauri Pipinen in 2012 are regulars.
Julia Reinhard is fast and precise when pouring the milk into the espresso. Then she hands the cup over to the customer with a smile. This is exactly what Reinhard loves about her job – sharing good experiences.
"It’s great to work in a place that serves good coffee. When you think that coffee was once a plant somewhere far away from here and how it travelled here and how people have taken good care of it throughout its journey, you can be very proud to share it with people," she says.
Reinhard still remembers how great it was to taste truly good coffee for the first time. She hopes to be able to provide as many of her customers as possible with a similar experience.
Pipinen also has the same aim and believes that he’s at least partly achieved it.
"I think over these years I’ve managed to change at least some people’s view of coffee. That it can be so much more than your daily boost of caffeine," Pipinen says.
"I hope people are really able to enjoy coffee here and not just drink it like some medicine," Reinhard adds.
That’s something she also used to do before she learned more about the raw material.
"It’s easy to think that coffee’s a simple drink, but when you learn to understand the life-cycle of coffee from bean to cup you realise that there’s actually a lot more to it. You can find as many flavours in coffee as you can in wine," she points out.
Reinhard used to work in the fashion business and has been a barista for a little over three years now. She found coffee when she followed her partner to Finland from the USA. She took part in a coffee course organised by Kalle Freese because she’d always liked coffee and ended up working for him. When Freese closed his café down a couple of years ago, she started at Good Life Coffee.
Coffee as a lifestyle
On his working days Lauri Pipinen has his first cup in the morning at work. At home he usually only makes coffee on his days off, but even then he’s not too fussy about things.
"I can’t be bothered with any special gear and tricks at home. I make my coffee with a Wilfa brewer. You can make more at a time and the coffee’s as good as hand-poured, provided that you grind your beans and measure them out properly," he says.
Reinhard also swears by a Wilfa. Although at times when she only makes a cup for herself, she uses an AeroPress. Pipinen got interested in coffee while studying at Helsinki Culinary School Perho. He knew right at the beginning of his studies that a career as a chef was not for him. When he spotted a job advert for a barista on the school notice board he realised his opportunity had come.
"I’d been making coffee at home with an espresso machine and was interested in the topic. I wanted to look properly into it," he says.
Pipinen worked at Kaffa Roastery for a couple of years until he decided to open his own café in 2012. "I’d always wanted to do something of my own, and that felt like a good time to try it out. At that point there weren’t many cafés in Helsinki serving microroastery coffees."
In 2014 Pipinen opened his own microroastery in conjunction with his café.
Small circles of coffee professionals
At the beginning of Pipinen’s barista career, Finland’s coffee circles were so small that in practice all of the most devoted baristas were mates with each other. Now the crowd’s a lot bigger, but everyone still pulls together.
"When everyone’s a small player and none of us operate next door to each other, there's no need to compete. There’s a pretty good community spirit in Helsinki’s coffee circles. Some cafés make joint coffee orders from abroad when they need a larger batch at a time," Pipinen says.
Baristas meet each other at various coffee scene events. Competitions are also a big part of the lifestyle of many baristas. Pipinen used to compete a lot in the early years of his career. He was Finnish Barista of the Year in 2011 and winner of the Latte Art Champion competition in 2013 and Brewers Cup in 2014. After that he’s only put his skills to the test at Cup Tasting and no longer takes part in more demanding competitions.
"When I was young in the business, competing was a good way of getting training and learning new things. I warmly recommend competitions, but I’m personally no longer interested in putting in the effort. It takes so much time if you want to do well at the international level," he says.
Reinhard has also competed a lot. And not only because competing helps you learn about coffee and yourself but also to break the norms. Women are still an unfortunately rare sight at coffee industry competitions.
Women’s skills are belittled in the same way as in sports.
"I want to encourage women to compete through my own example. I know lots of skilled female baristas who haven’t competed because women don’t get a very warm reception in competitions. It’s interesting how much discrimination there is at those events: women’s skills are belittled in the same way as in sports. Luckily this is discussed more and more all the time, and the general attitude is gradually changing," she says.
Competing is a good way for baristas to keep up to date. They also look out for up-and-coming trends abroad, on social media and in other cafés. Pipinen often does café-hopping in Helsinki on his days off. The favourite social media channel for Pipinen and Reinhard is Instagram.
"Instagram’s a great way to find out what’s trending in coffee. It’s rare that you get any genuinely new ideas for coffee on Instagram, but every now and then you spot tools that make our work easier," Pipinen says.
There’s more to life than coffee
What does a passionate barista do after a long day’s work? Not drink coffee, apparently. Both Pipinen and Reinhard make sure there’s more to life for them than coffee. Reinhard’s passions are travel and food. She’s just back from a week of sailing in Myanmar.
Pipinen’s work as a barista is counterbalanced by his children aged 3 and 5. He also travels a lot. His choice of destination is usually in some way affected by coffee, though. Pipinen last visited Copenhagen and is next heading to Berlin.
"Usually when I travel there's something interesting as regards coffee in where I go. I visit a lot of cafés when I’m abroad. It’s good to see other people’s places every now and then for inspiration," he says.
Both of these pros say that at times they need a break from coffee.
"Coffee’s a big part of my life, but I try to keep it as my job as I see a lot of people burn out in this business. It’s important to maintain other interests in your life, because focusing on just one thing makes it hard to enjoy it. When you allow yourself a moment to do other stuff and then get back to doing what you love, you’re so much more capable of doing your best," Reinhard points out.