Profile of Greek Barista Champion
The concept of the Barista is still relatively new in the United States, unlike in many European countries, where being a barista is a job that more often than not becomes a lifelong passion. Such is the case in Greece, where making coffee with an Ibrik is still a very common preparation method (just as it is in the Balkans and other East European countries including Russia). Throughout the world there are many ways of blending, roasting, grinding and preparing Greek/Turkish/Arabian coffee. The traditions and cultures are numerous.
In the recent Greek Barista Championships, 8 competitors from all over Greece took part, and their challenge was to make Greek coffee with the use of traditional tools and heat sources…and above all coffee. Within a time limit the barista's had to prepare and serve a small and large coffee. In addition they could also use other ingredients in a third coffee. Marks were given for taste, technique and performance. The overall winner was 34 year old Nickos Margaritopopoulos from the town of Veria – which lies some 40 kilometers west of Thesaloniki.
Margaritopopoulos learned how to make traditional Greek coffee from his father. And what's more Nickos learned quickly how important it was to please demanding Greek customers, who frequented the bar where Nickos' father worked.
In the competition he made and served his two traditional coffees with flair and style keeping the temperature and brewing time in the Ibrik steady by rotating it in the sand above the heat source. The "ka'i'maki "on the surface was perfect in its light brown color and density, not quite but almost the same as a crema in an espresso.
In his signature beverage he heated milk directly over gas without burning it for a second, and then added a dash of chocolate moving the beverage in the direction of a more modern coffee bar Mocka both visually and in taste.
Nickos has been making traditional coffee this for almost 30 years, and his victory aptly demonstrates that repeated practice in a real environment is what makes a champion…and a great barista!