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 Nicolas Clerc, brewing your daily cup of coffee at Télescope in Paris.
Nicolas Clerc (42) is the owner and a barista at Télescope, one of the best speciality cafes in Paris. You will see him smile behind the bar the 99% of his time, in the 1%, he will be busy with his side profession in photography. Nicolas has worked in the speciality coffee industry for eight years.
Nicolas, do you remember your first memory with coffee?
It was a Chemex, the first time I saw this beautiful object, and what I tasted was very new to me, from the texture to the flavours, it was love at first sip! It was a Yirgacheffe roasted by Intelligentsia.
Could you describe the moment or situation that made you decide to become a barista?
I guess it was after a stay in New York, where I met an enthusiast and a very welcoming coffee crowd…I thought the world needed more people like them.
What is the funniest thing that you have experienced behind the bar? Can you recall any embarrassing moment?
I guess I’m having a lot of fun every day, otherwise, I couldn’t do this job.
And my most embarrassing time, I spilt a cappuccino on a girl, I covered her shirt, sweater, trousers, hair, and even managed to spill it on her bag and coat that was on the chair next to her… I had never been that embarrassed. She had her flight back to Seoul on the same day, of course. So I twisted the arm of my local laundry, and gave her all the scarves and jumpers I had at home so she could go out. She came back to pick her cleaned clothes, she was looking like the most beautiful nomad I've ever seen. We are in contact once a year, and now, we almost keep this story as a funny one.
What was the most memorable coffee in your life?
The first one, of course, but also probably the one I had with Klaus Thomsen in a resort at Mount Kenya, the coffee was tasting absolutely amazing, but I know it wasn’t the coffee it was the whole situation…
If a career in coffee was not an option, what job would you be doing?
I’d be a fireman, president or astronaut.
Do you have an unusual habit or hobby that you love?
Regarding coffee? I found out that it is worth waking up earlier to make myself a great breakfast at Télescope before opening. Also, a side effect is that I better understand what people are doing here.
Are there any bad recommendations you hear often in your profession? What is your piece of advice for anybody starting a career as a barista?
One thing I stopped doing is dialling the grinder all day! I think that once you got the good setting, mistakes rarely come from the grind size… you can adjust the quantity, it’s more precise.
Looking back, what one thing would you wish to know when you were starting to work as a barista?
That latte art isn’t important.
What qualities set a good and a great barista apart?
Social skills! As soon as you welcome a customer in a nice way, your coffee will immediately taste better [to them].
What helps you to handle a bad day at the cafe and provide good customer service?
That’s a fantastic question! I try to keep in mind the smile of others, also, I try to breathe deeply, eventually go for a couple-of-minute walk, if possible laugh about it. Also, I try to remember all the time I really got impart or angry, and how useless it was.
What is the one thing that you would miss the most if you could not work as a barista anymore?
I’d miss all those regulars I love, and the new guys I meet every day… I feel like [I am] travelling every day.
What cafes and roasters make the top-five list of places to visit in your city? Where would you take your visitors?
Hexagone – Chung-Len is the most dedicated coffee lover I know, he is very focused, precise and so nice, I love to go there, and enjoy the serenity of his coffee shop
Honor – a fantastic place for coffee. The location and the whole systems put together there are fantastic, accurate and very pleasant.
Dreamin man – it’s a brand new tiny booth, Yuichiro was running Boot cafe to its greatness and now he has opened his own shop. It’s a gem.
Holybelly 5 – because it’s always great fun to go there for its vibrant energy. Get a bunch of pancakes, a nice cup of coffee and you’re set for the day.
Neigbours is the perfect weekend place, they have the perfect coffee of Honor, plus a great brunch proposal, every plate reminds me of my Melbourne days.
What has been the best experience you have had in the speciality coffee industry so far?
The whole system is fun, I’m not a big fan of competitions or fairs…it reminds me of New Year’s Eve, those long-time planned events that most of the time end up being more boring than spontaneous gatherings. So my favourite thing is to take a trip and see what happens.
Quick Fire Question
Would you serve filter coffee with milk, if asked for it?
I’m rarely going in the way of clients. If they ask I’ll give them my opinion and reasons, but if they always do that [put milk in their filter coffee], I’m not entitled to blame them for what they like.