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Barista Stories: Aistė Košienė of Coffee Spells, Vilnius

Meet Aistė Košienė, a charismatic owner of Coffee Spells in Vilnius, Lithuania. Aistė worked for 10 years as a marketer until she finally pursued her true calling and opened a specialty café. This year she took part in the first Brewers Cup in Lithuania and scored 2nd place. She had however a chance to represent her country in World Brewers Cup in Chicago.

With only 5 weeks to prepare it was definitely a crazy ride for Aistė especially that upon arrival she got to know that most of her and her coach’s luggage was lost in transit… With no coffee and missing a significant part of her equipment, many people would resign but not Aistė. She mastered her networking skills and not only organised everything she was missing but also reached out to the community to help her roast the new coffee and train before the big day.

Aistė despite all the odds went on the World Brewers Cup stage with a big, sincere smile and delivered a memorable open service proving once again that we are only strong when we act together as a community.

Barista Stories are sponsored by PUQpress.

Aistė, what is your first memory with coffee? 

Like most people I think, it was quite poor – I started with Nescafe 3in1. But sorry, it’s not coffee. It was just a belief that it was coffee! A far more real encounter was 8-9 years ago and back then a flat white was the perfect one. Nowadays I don’t even want to think about coffee with milk. it’s not for me.

​​​​​​​What inspired you to pursue a career in the coffee industry, and how did you get started? What did you do before coffee?

Spontaneously, when I was five months pregnant with my baby, I decided that I was going to open a specialty coffee shop. But to be honest, since I was a kid,  I’ve always wanted to have my own cozy coffee shop or restaurant. My parents have one and I grew into hospitality.

Before that, I had a successful career as a marketer for almost 10 years and organised several huge conferences. 

Tell us a bit about the place. What is your role there?

I am the founder of Coffee Spells. We currently have two cafés and I’m also starting to roast our own coffee. So my roles are very diverse – I can be a barista, a dishwasher, a salesperson, a marketer, a manager, etc.

What kind of experience do you want your customers to have when they visit you at the cafe?

I want them to feel inspired. Inspired by coffee, inspired to create, inspired to enjoy every day and finally inspired to communicate with each other.

What is your favourite part of the day in your cafe, and why?

Definitely tasting new coffees and interacting with guests – getting to know them is really important for me to create an experience and a safe place they want to come back to.

What do you think is the most important quality for a barista to have, and why?

Attention to detail. I always say that a barista has to be precise and attentive when preparing the coffee, but at the same time, he/she has to feel the vibe and attend to all the guests in the café.

What are some common misconceptions about our industry that you’ve encountered, and how do you address them?

Specialty coffee is growing in Lithuania, but still, very, very few people know about it, and when you talk to them, often the answer to the question “What kind of coffee do you like?” is “Please not a sour one and a little stronger one”. Unfortunately, a lot of people still need to be told that bitterness is a defect. Whereas at the same time, I have hope for the future since more and more people want to taste better quality coffee.

You have some nice achievements in championships. Can you tell us more about them? What are the next championships you’d like to compete in?

Oh, this is an incredible topic for me because I am not a competitive person. But for a different reason than you might think. I don’t like to compete because I am afraid of losing. Though thanks to Janina Łaszkiewicz, I competed in the Lithuanian Brewers Cup and I got the opportunity to compete in the World Brewers Cup in Chicago.

And… I enjoyed the ride. It was a priceless experience and… I want to repeat it! My next competition will be the Aeropress Championship in Poland in August. I don’t expect anything, but I know that I will come back with even more experience. I have realised that competitions can be very, very powerful.

You had some unexpected difficulties while preparing for the World Brewers Cup. Can you tell us about them?

Oh yes, it was quite a ride! The preparations before flying to Chicago were already very intense and then when we landed after a very long flight… Some of our luggage didn’t make it. So we had to improvise and try to get as soon as possible: a kettle, grinder and some of the coffee to continue the preparations. It was amazing how many people helped us along the way, I’m so grateful to our community.

Huge shoutout to my coach Janina and Krzystof who helped me with all the ideas, networking and running around the city to complete the setup, to Patrik for sharing Eugeonides coffee with me and Team Nucleus for help with roasting the coffee. I also have to thank all the Cup Tasting Champions and guests who visited our rented flat and helped in feedbacking my routine and recipe.

I also wouldn’t be able to make it without the support of my family and friends. The fact that they believed in me so strongly really gave me so much motivation.

How did it feel to compete on the World Stage?

A lot of fear, a lot of stress, but also a lot of joy and pride. Lots of new wonderful people and even more new knowledge.

You had some innovative concepts during your open service. Can you tell us about them?

I came to the World Championships from a tiny country. I know and understand that not even one of the judges knew where Lithuania was. It was the first time that a competitor from my country had participated. So we decided to find things in the performance that would be memorable. That’s why, as far as I know, I was one of the first ones to include touch and colour sensory experience, i.e. we combined the texture of coffee with the sense of touch and reinforced the taste of coffee by asking people to put on pink-coloured glasses. Which also changed the perception of the world around them. 

I tried to engage not only the forebears of taste but also of touch and vision. 

What is in your opinion the most important thing to have in mind when you start to compete in coffee championships?

Calmness, confidence, and of course good coffee and focus on practicing the technique and the recipe.

What coffee challenges are you looking forward to? Any new projects or collaborations?

I want to have better and better quality coffee in my cafés, raise the qualifications of baristas and bring to Lithuania not only good coffee but also coffee growers. So we can get to know each other and build a community.

Quick Fire Questions for Aistė Košienė:

Would you serve filter coffee with milk if asked for it?

I would try to sway first, but if I would end up having to pour the milk, I would say that it wasn’t me who made that drink, but someone else!

Do you ever take sugar with your coffee?

 I don’t drink bad coffee.

Espresso or Filter coffee?

Filter in the morning, espresso in the afternoon.

Milky or Black?

Filter coffee.

Flat bottom or conical-shaped brewer?

Conical-shaped dripper

Do you aim for Sweetness, Acidity, or Body?

Balance, but probably with leading acidity.

Cake or Pastry with your coffee?

Both maybe?! But usually without.

Favourite piece of barista equipment?