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Barista Stories: Jaroslav Slámečka of Candycane Coffee, Prague

Meet Jaroslav Slamečka, a 35-year-old coffee professional from Prague, Czech Republic. With a social studies background and 12 years of experience in the coffee industry, Jaroslav made quite a name for himself in the Czech scene. Jaroslav is not only one of the co-founders of Candycane Coffee roastery but also an active coffee educator and trainer.

Jaroslav is the author of 365 cups of coffee which is a blog, podcast and also YouTube channel that tackles various important topics around coffee and vlogs from visits to coffee origins and coffee houses. Jaroslav gained even more publicity and recognition recently after becoming the Czech Coffee in Good Spirits Champion (the third time’s a charm!).

Barista Stories are sponsored by PUQpress. Photo by SCA Czech Republic.

Jaroslav, what is your first memory of coffee? 

It’s probably not my first memory, but the influence to start drinking coffee other than vanilla latte came when a classmate at college made fun of me for this unstylish drink. You know I wanted to punch him. But it was an influence to start drinking coffee for the taste of coffee. 

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

I studied social work and interned at a training café, at a business that employs people with mental or physical handicaps. I wanted to learn how to prepare better coffee and found the first courses that were organized in the Czech Republic at Coffee Source roastery.

Additionally in the bookstore, one could buy a book written by our first barista superstar Petra Davies Veselá. I got the book for Christmas and read it by the next morning. My universe exploded. There were no more than 10 cafes in Prague at that time with specialty coffee. I bothered every one of them to see if they’d hire me. Eventually, Adam Dvorak from the Kavovy Klub took pity on me and started taking me to farmers’ markets with Vanda Zumrova from Kavárna Pražírna.

My life changed. I enjoyed every drink served as a small demonstration of craft and the immediate result of work when people smiled at the coffee. 

Tell us a bit about the place you work/own. What is your role there?

We founded Candycane Coffee six years ago as quite well-known baristas on the Czech coffee scene. I already had one of the first barista blogs/vlogs, 365 cups of coffee, which helped me build a name for myself in the community.

My colleague Ondřej Štoksa wanted to start roasting full-time after his successful Captain Arabica micro project (haha, still funny) and Adam Gaszczyk and Zdeněk Hýbl had a successful coffee shop called Onesip Coffee. They came to us with an offer to help start a roastery and training centre.

After half a year we found out how big thing was growing under our hands and basically, we were saved and completed by Jan Hrňa, who started to take care of management and purchasing of green coffee. From day one, I had painted myself that I was going to focus on education, training and coffee awareness. After six years of hard work… there is finally a little more time for that! 

What kind of experience do you want your customers to have when they drink your coffee?

The best possible coffee in its freshness of the green bean, with a push on the sweet side of the taste. That’s why we named the roastery Candycane coffee – coffee as sweet as candy.

We felt that the direction of the specialty coffee roasters was getting to the point of being nearly under-roasted, the coffees on the market tasted too herbal to the point of being hay-like. And on the other side, there were traditional roasters that were over-roasting the coffee. What was, and is important to us was the experience of sweetness, which is somewhere in the perfect point of maximum caramelisation of the sugars without loss of fruitiness. And it’s such an endless search and evolution with each new coffee on offer. And the freshness of the coffee helps a lot, I’m glad that SCA now labels coffee as a specialty also based on its freshness and moisture. We certainly don’t want to serve old green coffee to our customers. And I hate when specialty coffee roasters sell old crops.

Jaroslav and his “365 cups of coffee” YouTube channel.

How do you stay motivated and inspired to keep improving your coffee-making skills?

I don’t know, more like I’m not (laughs).
I think I’m getting the full Dunning-Kruger effect.
Every day I feel like I’m overwhelmed with new knowledge and the whole coffee world is rushing forward and I’m stagnant. But then I’m training new baristas and I see how much I need to transmit to them and how much we’re just overwhelmed with information but we’re not even able to get the basics.

So when I feel like I’m never going to bring the world as great knowledge as James Hoffmann, I just teach someone how to wipe the milk spout after steaming and I know I’ve lit a candle rather than stayed in the dark (laughs).

You have some nice achievements in championships. Can you tell us more about them?

So I studied social work and psychology. And I’m one of the baristas who dropped out of school before graduating. So I have a feeling in my head that I owe myself and the people around me some success in life. (Because starting a successful roastery is like a pebble thrown into a lake, isn’t it? laughs).

Over time I became friends with my coffee idol Petra Davies Veselá and one day she told me that I didn’t need to go to a competition because I was already successful. It was an award, and at the same time, it stayed with me like a question mark. With time, I wanted to compete in the royal discipline of Barista Championship. And at the same time, I’ve always loved bar culture and Irish coffee.

In 2019, I was keen to prove to myself that I could do it. I ended up being disqualified for time. In 2022 after a COVID break again disqualified… with the same overtime… 11:08. It was both a rage and a challenge to prove myself.

This year I went through the road to hell and back to bring my ADHD mind to a winning finish with the help of my friends at Back Doors bar, my girlfriend and a lot of other people who decided to help me. It’s a pain, but I’m so happy for this life achievement, it’s my coffee master’s degree.

You have amazing experience in coffee, why did it take you so long to start competing?

That people will think I’m bad as a teacher, barista, and coffee professional.
Over the years, I have built a reputation in which I have become a recognized coffee expert in the Czech Republic. And with each passing day, my fear of failing grew. Early in my career, I tried Cup Tasting and it was a wonderful feeling to learn. I became a part of an amazing coffee community.

Since then, the fear has only grown.
I would like to motivate everyone afraid to try the competition. Go now.

My colleague Zdeněk Hýbl won the National Barista Championship in 2019. And his theory is that in most cases to win it is necessary to go to the competition 3 times. Find out what the competition is about, become good at it and then hopefully win.

This year I confirmed it. But the main idea here is to try the competition and not feel like the world will come crashing down if you fail. The main thing is to gain new experiences and lose fear. Each year of competition has made me a bigger pro and at the same time helped me rise above the stress a little.

How do you plan to approach the preparations for the CiGS World Stage?

I won this year. But only thanks to luck and also the big heart of the great man Ondřej Hurtík, who reported after the competition that he broke the rules by mistake and the judges did not notice this situation. Ondřej had a better score on points and won in the first moment.

For me, it is a clear sign that I have to improve myself to challenge a person who was second in the World in this championship. I need to immerse myself in training and get even more help. Not only from the wonderful trainers Alice Tieriekhova and Jakub Ondrisek from the Back doors bar. Ondřej Hurtík already said at the announcement that he would be happy to help me with the preparation.

Preparing carefully for the championship is not the work of an individual at all, but the composition of a strong team. Thank you very much for the other wonderful people who want to help me, and I will definitely need them.

Is there any message you’d like to deliver to the world with your CiGS presentations?

There will be time for this in the next six months, to find our leitmotif and support it with the right experience, so that it does not become shallow like some “grandmother’s memory”. And that supports my idea of why I was successful at Nationals. 

I served and presented the judges with coffee that was prepared by one of my best friends, Zuzana Cerna. A Czech woman who moved to Nicaragua to process coffee. She became a fermentation expert at Sabio Coffee and competing with her coffee was a dream come true and a presentation of how far we have both come in 12 years.

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

That’s quite funny. I was always stressed and wanted to be the best. I asked for advice from Hana Bojdová from Café Jen, who was a judge last year. After watching my performance, she said: “You’ve trained enough. Go enjoy it there and show them you enjoy it”. The evening before the competition, Adam Obrátil from Industra Coffee also watched the performance and basically said the same thing. You are doing something you love and you want to show them in those few moments that this is your flow. Enjoy it. So when you’re about to perform and feel like throwing up, just let it go. If you love it, go enjoy the show and show it to the world.

What coffee challenges are you looking forward to except for the WCC in Copenhagen? Any new projects or collaborations?

Not finishing last is a good challenge!

And if that happens, I won’t panic, because I will still be one of the people who represented my country at the World Championship. I’ll allow myself a small advertising window here. If there is someone who can offer me a partnership to create a concept and represent it in the World Championship, I am ready.

Quick Fire Questions for Jaroslav Slamečka:

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

I love kind service, with good laughs and hospitality, but I will recommend Americano with milk as an option, jokingly and with a happy face.

Do you ever take sugar with your coffee?

In some “restaurant” dark roast type of coffee on vacation when it is not specialty coffee.

Espresso or Filter coffee?

Yes, more!

Do you aim for Sweetness, Acidity, or Body?


Milky or Black?


Slurp or Spit?

Whisky or gin with your coffee?

Whisky brought me a title! But still, I think gin is femme fatale for coffee.

Favourite piece of barista equipment? 

A cloth. Please clean up, CLEAN UP! (laughs)