Coffee has overtaken the life of one man who has recently opened an artisan shop in Nicosia. ALEXIA EVRIPIDOU gets a taste for the dark stuff
Rich aromas of ‘the black stuff’ envelope the artisan coffee shop The Daily Roast where owner, manager and barista Aris Christoforou bubbles passionately about a world often at the edge of people’s lips on waking: coffee.
For some, coffee is a bitter black liquid that helps keep you awake or sober but for many others, the scent of freshly brewed coffee is the first highlight of the day. Even if one is not a coffee drinker it is hard to ignore the divine aroma it emits. So much so, that you can actually now buy coffee fragrance, it is available in room sprays and diffusers to energise the space with the smell of coffee! For Aris, coffee is more than this, it is a way of life; to experience intricate flavours and aromatic sensations, a means to meet and communicate with new people, share ideas and a love for a complex and invigorating drink. Coffee is his job, his hobby and his undoubtable passion. Even his three-year-old daughter shares his love of making coffees.
A man who knows his own mind, Aris explains his obsession with coffee simply: “I just love serving coffees. To see people appreciating their coffee is enough for me”.
Move over sommeliers, there’s a new kid in town, and he’s called the barista. A job which Aris believes should be a career choice, not a default option, for those with a passion for coffee. Aris is a young, intelligent and silently confident man. He gives the people he speaks with his undivided attention, sharing the art of coffee making and its impact on individuals and society. Sharing and learning is at the core of what Aris is all about; he still offers his services as a professional barista trainer to all, coffee shops, both chains and independent, hotels, restaurants etc. Technically, everyone else who makes and sells coffee is a competitor, however Aris does not see it this way. “They come to me and tell me their values and what they want to achieve. I then give my best to help them make it even better. It is not about who has the best coffee. Everyone should believe that they are selling the best and then perfect on delivering the best quality,” he says.
Quality, quality and quality is another inherent value of Aris, this is an undisputable requirement for every single coffee he makes and serves to his customers. Aris explains that “people in Cyprus drink a lot of instant coffee. I want to show people what a real cup of coffee is, so they can taste the many flavours in an excellently roasted bean”. His goals are to educate Cypriot palettes to appreciate real coffee and enlist people into the global coffee revolution. Hold onto your froth, because the coffee culture is ready to sweep Cyprus.
And so the highly technical science of coffee begins to unravel, a process that is more complicated and intriguing than expected. A place where science, technical precision and art meet up in cup of explosive black flavours, just don’t mention sugar, cinnamon or syrup! “Often these are used to mask the bitter flavour of the bad quality bean or the dark roast,” says Aris. He does not like to dark roast his green coffee beans or offer syrup or cinnamon in his coffees. Though a little brown sugar can complement a few coffees, straight black is best for most. Aris explains that when a bean is of a high quality then a light roast is enough to bring out the many layers of flavours, so, there is no need for the extras which mask the already perfectly crafted elixir.
The plot only thickens as he throws in jargon where Google is called upon to explain: extraction procedures, dark roast versus light roast, brewing styles, espresso versus filtering: hand press vintage La Pavoni and Faema Veloxtermo, the more modern French press, aeropress, Hario V60 filters, the list is endless. With each brewing style drawing out different flavours from the same coffee, Aris explains that the French press always gives more body to the coffee, at the same time if you use the same coffee with a V60 filter you got clearer flavours and more acidity. “The coffee revolution is relatively new, unlike wine, that’s why we are always exploring and discovering,” enthuses Aris. The man is a walking encyclopedia on all things coffee, though he never stops learning.
This was not the case when he started out in the coffee industry over eight years ago. He set off as a graphic designer, working as a barista to make ends meet. However, Aris found that his interest in coffee began to over take his interest for graphic design, often finishing a long day’s work only to spend hours researching and learning about coffee, chatting in coffee forums and searching for training opportunities to feed his passion. This investment of time and money propelled him from an ordinary barista in a small coffee outlet to a manager in Caffé Nero, to head of training at Costa Coffee Cyprus, and three months ago to entrepreneur and coffee shop owner in Nicosia. A far cry from his original dream when he left his Cyprus home in 2004 for the grayness of Sheffield, England to complete a degree in Graphic Design and Packaging.
Now a reformed instant coffee drinker, there was a time when he would never touch anything else. He was enticed by the varying tones and flavours of the coffees he was making at work; it was a revelation to him. He began exploring, beginning with Americano with milk then onto Americano without milk and eventually discovering the mother of coffees, espresso. “I was intrigued with how the coffee tasted much better to what I was used to before. This is how it all started”. At some point, he had the epiphany that he liked making coffees more and stopped searching for graphic design jobs.
At Caffé Nero, he was on display. The coffee machine was in front of the eyes of the customers, where their coffee experience began. “The customer could see everything; whether you are clean, messy, making a good coffee or not. That inspired me to improve myself. With each coffee I made, I challenged myself to make it better and better. Customer experience is very important, it’s completely up to the barista how the customer will feel, both in terms of the customer service and the drink itself”.
The doors had exploded into another world for Aris and there was no going back. A world where coffee is king, flavours, aromas and textures dictate culinary and sensory experiences and perfectly shiny milk is a necessity, not an option. Coffee is no laughing matter in this world and Aris gives immense respect to its preparation. It became important to him to oversee the correct extraction of the coffee, using the right methods, appropriate temperatures and even experimenting with different water types: “A bubble-less smooth creamy texture in a coffee is very important. It all boils down to the different techniques used to froth milk”.
As his love affair grew, he was driven to open up his own place “I wanted the customers to enjoy the same tastes that I’d learnt to enjoy. My philosophy is if it’s not good enough for me, then it’s not good enough for the customer”. This philosophy is reflected in every inch of his coffee shop in Gerasimou Marcora Street near the town centre. The décor is creative, warmly professional and inviting. One walks in and is initially hit by the tantalising coffee aromas, then enticed by the homemade handpicked selection of cakes and sandwiches. The coffee menu is simple and straight to the point; excellent coffee without unnecessary frills. The walls are lined with Aris’ own personal collection of vintage coffee makers starting from the 1950s. And the roaster, which he uses in the afternoons to prepare the beans, beams proudly in the shop’s window for all to see. “I roast crisp coffee beans several times during the week for the customers to have as fresh as coffee as possible. Some even come to enjoy the smells of fresh beans roasting”.
It is important for Aris that Cyprus shifts its perspective from the “kafejis” to the professional barista who offers artisan coffees. It is both a science and an art and he is pleased by the response he is getting from the customers. There are many coffee lovers out there and Aris believes the crisis may have helped a little. “It’s forced people to appreciate money and quality, enjoying the value they get for the money they spend. Hopefully more people will stop drinking bad bitter coffees”.
It is impossible to leave The Daily Roast without learning a thing a two about coffee, and not because Aris corners you, but because the space inspires everyone who enters it to want to find out more on their own accord. “You can showcase the acidity in a coffee, or the body in a coffee. You can get different flavours from the exact same bean by changing the parameter; from the bean you choose, to the roasting, filtration or extraction. All will affect the coffee and bring out different flavours”. Giving a good price to the farmers who provide the coffee beans is also of primary importance of Aris. He believes that the bean should be measured by its quality and this should be reflected in the price importers pay. He is painfully aware of what farmers go through to yield perfect crops, often fighting nature’s elements and losing everything.
The Daily Roast was designed by Aris, so busy people can grab a real coffee to go, or sit and enjoy the silky brew alone or with friends, or even buy the beans. It is part of the Third Wave movement of independent coffee shops, which have been popping up in Cyprus over the last couple of years. Unlike some other coffee artisans, Aris is genuinely grateful to Starbucks for creating the coffee culture “without which, I wouldn’t have a job now”. However, the whole point of the Third Wave is to provide excellent quality coffee, “this is easier for us to do, as we are not roasting industrial quantities. We can experiment and monitor the parameters more readily to ensure the best quality in each cup”. This brings him much excitement, as he is always learning.
Aris has attended the World Barista Championships (WBC) in the UK twice and participated in the Caffé Nero competitions as a barista, where he came first in the semi finals, out of 100 shops. Being excellent in his field, he was head hunted by Costa Coffee in Cyprus and had to start work as Head of Training, unfortunately missing out on the finals. It does not stop there; Aris has visions for Cyprus and its coffee culture. He is passionate and committed to bringing these competitions, training and seminars to Cyprus, giving Cypriot professionals the opportunity to participate in the WBC and help the coffee movement grow here. This is not for the competitions itself he argues, but for improvement. “I don’t see myself as competing with anyone. I would love to find out what someone else knows, so we can share, and all improve, instead of just one person trying to do it all and keeping it to themselves. As a member of SCAE (Specialty Coffee Association of Europe), he is encouraging other coffee professionals to sign up, so one day soon there can be a SCAE chapter in Cyprus. That way, they can bring over the well acclaimed ‘Cup of Excellence’; coffees which have been judged by international examiners as being the best of the best.
If there are any doubts about Aris’ commitment to good coffee, then ask Aris to tell you the story of how he and his wife walked through the bitter -10 degrees in Oslo just to have what was listed as the best cup of coffee. “I didn’t regret it,” says Aris.