Our Barista Stories series has been long in the making. Since our first visits to cafes around Europe, we have met many amazing baristas who have had a number of interesting stories to share. We love the speciality coffee community exactly for the people building it and are thrilled to introduce some of those individuals to you.
Baristas truly are the ones who contribute to the atmosphere in the cafe massively and are the key reason why we’d revisit.
Read on to meet Marit Islann, brewing your daily cup of coffee at Tim Wendelboe in Oslo.
Marit Islann is a 27-year-old barista from Skien in Norway. Since the age of 18, she has worked as a barista and her profession also brought her to Oslo, where she works as a barista and a roaster at Tim Wendelboe, which is her full-time job.
A few questions for Marit
What led you to coffee? Could you describe the moment or situation that made you decide to become a barista?
I started at a high school located close to the city center of my hometown Skien. At the same time, Stockfleths, a coffee chain based in Oslo, opened a coffee shop just nearby. It felt very special to have this urban store in our neighbourhood. I was there almost every day after school drinking coffee mocha. I loved the atmosphere and was fascinated by the craft. One day I asked the manager if they needed more staff members and to my surprise, I got hired! I was over the moon, and I knew instantly it was a very special opportunity. Even so, I didn’t imagine it would one day become something of great importance to me.
What is the funniest thing that you have experienced behind the bar? Can you recall any embarrassing moment?
I enjoy chatting with my guests. Sometimes during busy days, miscommunications occur. I vividly remember talking with a young mum, when she out of the blue started talking as if I too had a young child. I could not bear to correct her, considering my standards of hospitality and embarrassment. Instead I let her believe for a few full weeks that I had a little boy named Ola. It went so far, I asked my colleagues for help correcting the customer.
What would you do if you were not working in coffee?
I would love to work with dogs! One of my favorite television show is The Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan. I am convinced that growing up with dogs, together with cats, rabbits, canaries and a psychologically injured horse as part of my big family, made me part of who I am today. I can imagine doing courses for kids and their animals if I weren’t so deep in to the coffee industry.
What is an unusual habit or hobby that you love?
I started baking sourdough bread a year ago and it’s one of my favorite things to do on my days off. I think some of my friends got a bit jealous of my dedication to my culture—a leaven named Ianthi, full of delicious germs and funghi. I also love Karaoke. My go-to tracks are Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush and When Love Takes Over by Kelly Rowland.
What are some bad recommendations you hear often in your profession? What is your piece of advice for anybody starting a career as a barista?
I often get the question what I am going to become. Giving my dedication to this industry, it is frustrating when people don’t seem to accept my choice of career. In my opinion this notion that coffee (or other service professions) is something you do on your way to a “proper” job, can put an end to any young enthusiast thriving on giving people great and new experiences. So, stay proud, humble and curious!
What qualities set a good and a great barista apart?
For my part, attention to detail and being able to see your customers as if they were your guests in your own house, makes a huge difference.
If you have a bad day at the cafe, what helps you to handle it and provide good customer service?
My best trick is to smile all day!
What is the one thing that you would miss the most if you could not work as a barista/in coffee anymore?
Coming home from a line-out-the-door kind of day with coffee stained armpits, chaff in my bra and swollen ankles. And of course my regulars.
Imagine the perfect day in your city. Perhaps you have an old friend visiting. What would be top 3 to 5 activities or places you would show them?
I would start the day with a short hike up to the neighborhood deli Lille Tøyen Kolonial who make the best (and possibly the only) breakfast in town with organic and local food. Even though I rarely visit, the Munch museum is always a win for people visiting. Nearby lies the newly opened bakery of Martin and Theodor called Ille Brød—in my opinion the best thing that has happened to Oslo in a long time. After this, the natural finish will be drinking grape juice at Bar Lardo or Pedro´s.
Quick Fire Question
Would you serve filter coffee with milk, if asked for it?