Meet Piotr Skarźyński, a very young and aspiring coffee professional. At the tender age of 21 Piotr has already established himself in the specialty coffee scene in Poland. He was already twice the finalist of the national Brewers Cup. Hailing from the charming city of Białystok, Piotr channels his love for coffee into his work at Fly High Coffee, where he holds the position of Head Barista.
Piotr also not only constantly grows his coffee knowledge via attending numerous training sessions but hosts workshops and shares his know-how with others as well. Usually during pop-up activities together with Mateusz Rembiszewski who runs a new coffee roastery in Białystok called Kofimatik.
Piotr is one of these people in the industry that has an unapologetic and contagious passion for the craft, people and coffee itself. We really appreciate that he found some time for us, especially since Piotr is in the middle of exams for his law studies.
Piotr, what is your first memory of coffee?
If we talk about specialty, then it was a delicious washed Ethiopian coffee, which was my “AHA” moment. It made me fall in love with coffee all over again. I remember I bought it from Świeżo Palona. it was pre-ground since I didn’t have a grinder back then. It was definitely not the best brew, but! Believe it or not, in my mind, it stayed as something wonderful and I will never forget this experience.
What inspired you to pursue a career in the coffee industry, and how did you get started? What did you do before coffee?
In fact, working with coffee is my first job. I just started university and before I only had some seasonal gigs. I had been thinking about working behind a cafe bar to be able to develop my passion since I really enjoyed drinking coffee. I felt that was the only way I could go forward, develop new skills like latte art and meet coffee nerds from my city. I applied for a job in a coffee shop and that’s how I started my career in the coffee industry. But I also still study law!
Tell us a bit about the place you work at. What is your role there?
Fly High Coffee is a specialty cafe that was opened 6 years ago by Magda and Wojtek on Lipowa Street in Białystok. We serve delicious specialty coffee, and breakfasts as well as homemade pastries and cakes every day. A few months ago, we opened a new place on the map of Białystok at Kilińskiego Street, where we expanded the menu with lunch items.
My role is to train our baristas, select coffees that we brew and make recipes. I really enjoy my work!
What kind of experience do you want your customers to have when they visit you at the cafe?
I want someone who meets specialty coffee for the first time not to feel lost in all these names and terms, but to feel at ease and have the feeling that they can ask the barista anything. For guests who are already familiar with specialty, I would like them to feel confident in what we do and choose and just feel relaxed and able to fully enjoy a cup of coffee.
What is your favourite part of the day in your cafe, and why?
My favourite part of the day is the ongoing contact with the guests. Talking with them about coffee, sometimes advising on coffee preparation at home, but above all, brewing a great cup of coffee. People are an inseparable element of my work as a barista, which I like very much. Of course, in addition to what I mentioned, a great part of my job is working with this amazing coffee as a product, setting it up, and trying to get the most out of the beans to ensure the guests get the best possible cup of coffee.
P.S. I am an early bird man so I feel best on morning shifts. If you want to meet me in the cafe – come visit in the morning haha!
How do you stay motivated and inspired to keep improving your coffee-making skills?
Firstly I know that I don’t know everything about coffee. Brewing coffee and all the processes bound with this great product. I just want to continuously develop my skills and knowledge. Secondly, it is my passion so this is the biggest impulse to discover this fantastic world of coffee I have been competing in championships for the last two years and I plan to compete in the next ones. I have to stay in the rhythm of coffee all the time – I believe that continuous development will allow me to be more and more successful in competitions and my career.
Piotr, since you already brought up the topic of competitions. You have some really nice achievements. Can you tell us more about them?
So… I am a double finalist of the Polish Brewers Cup of 2022 and 2023. It was a great experience to compete with such experienced brewers from all around Poland. I couldn’t imagine that I would compete with them so early in my career and that I would stand with them on one stage in the final.
And how I started competing? Once upon a time, I met Janina Łaszkiewicz who is well known in the coffee world as a judge and SCA trainer, owner of the Dear Judges project. But above all a great, inspiring and motivating person. She was the one who introduced me to the world of championships and guided me through it. I cannot express enough my gratitude for her! Throughout the preparation period for my first competition, I could count on her with everything and rely on her extensive experience and knowledge. Especially since the first steps really weren’t that easy.
Each competition is exciting but I will remember the first one with great sentiment. I went straight to the finals and took the 6th place. I’m so glad I did it again next year. I hope it will get even better in the upcoming years!
And the next competition I would like to compete in the next Brewers Cup since in this category I find myself the most. However, I am also considering taking part in the Cup Tasters championship. And of course, the AeroPress championship is on my schedule every year. So this year I will definitely take part in the regional rounds and who knows? Maybe in the final in Warsaw?
What is in your opinion the most important thing to have in mind when you start to compete in coffee championships?
A good knowledge of the rules and some technical skills are fundamental. Working in a cafe combines well with the skills needed to start in competition – multitasking.
It’s also a good idea to watch other competitors’ presentations on youtube. It gives you a different point of view and inspires you to push harder. Regular training, scheduled practice time and organizing test performances for family/friends is also crucial in my opinion. It helps to develop a great routine and break through the iceberg of public speaking.
What coffee challenges are you looking forward to? Any new projects or collaborations?
I am definitely planning to participate in the next competitions. I plan to further develop my coffee passion and use all the good things this passion generates. As for new projects, time will show. Let’s just say I don’t want to jinx it!
Quick Fire Questions for Piotr Skarżyński:
Would you serve filter coffee with milk if asked for it?