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 Viktor Svensson, brewing your daily cup of coffee at Café Pascal, in Stockholm.
Viktor Svensson is a 33-year-old barista from Katrineholm in Sweden. As a full-time barista, you can catch him at Café Pascal, one of the great cafes in Stockholm. Viktor, who now holds the Head Barista position, has worked in coffee for about four to five years but says that only the last three were in speciality coffee.
Viktor, do you remember your first memory with coffee?
Just like everyone else my first memory of coffee is probably my parents drinking it, especially by the summer house up in the northern parts of Sweden, outside, at the old wooden table in the sun with way too many mosquitos around. It wasn’t good coffee by any means, but it was coffee and it was the smell of my summer holidays.
Could you describe the moment or situation that made you decide to become a barista?
I don’t know exactly when that happened, but I started getting interested in how to make latte art back when I was working in a bread store. I started googling and looking up how to do it and eventually became better and better at it just by doing it a lot. Since no one else at that place was interested in coffee I basically had the machine all to myself. After that, I gradually got more and more interested in coffee and found out about the incredible world of speciality coffee. The rest is – as they say – history.
What is the funniest thing that you have experienced behind the bar? Can you recall any embarrassing moment?
Embarrassing things happen all the time behind the bar – after all, we’re working with people… I can’t really recall one thing though since I just stopped caring about that stuff a long time ago. We laugh a lot at Café Pascal though and we’re always having a good time, teasing each other, joking around or just being stupid. I think it’s so important that you have a good time at work. After all, it’s where we spend most of our days.
What was the most memorable coffee in your life, and was there one that you’d like to forget?
It would probably be one of the coffees that made me understand what speciality coffee was like and what coffee could be in a broader sense of the word. The fact that what we usually consider coffee is actually not even coffee, it’s just roast made to cover bad coffee. That was a mind blower for me.
[A coffee I'd like to forget is] every coffee I’ve ever had in different hotels around the world. I hate naming countries specifically because I know there’s good coffee in almost all places now, but… Well, I didn’t find it or didn’t look hard enough in the mornings I guess.
If a career in coffee was not an option, what job would you be doing?
I would probably be a teacher of some kind or just “that guy who does a little bit of everything and plays a lot of music”. As long as I can create in some way, I’ll be a happy camper.
Do you have an unusual habit or hobby that you love?
I play a lot of music, or at least I used to. People are usually surprised when I tell them I’m into hardcore punk music or metal and that that is the music I usually play myself.
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?
Don’t take everything too seriously and don’t listen to what everybody says. You can do this if you want to. Listen to others but filter it through what you want out of this job. You can be a total coffee nerd in this profession or you can just love working with coffee and people. You do you!
Looking back, what one thing would you wish to know when you were starting to work as a barista?
Nothing. I love learning as I go. I’m not at all perfect as a barista or a human being, but I don’t have to be! That’s the beauty of it!
What qualities set a good and a great barista apart?
I think the ability to convey to another human being what coffee is to you is one of those things for sure. That and the ability to listen, learn, and to not be afraid to listen to your colleagues and to learn from them. And the ability to want to teach others what you may already know. We need to help each other out instead of keeping our little tricks to ourselves.
If you have a bad day at the cafe, what helps you to handle it and provide good customer service?
Usually my colleagues. They’re always there for me, helping me out, joking around, making me forget about whatever upset me. That and being open about maybe not having the best day. Not towards customers, but towards the people I work with. That way they know that I’m not having a great day and they can work with me to make it easier for everyone. Communication is KEY at a café.
What is the one thing that you would miss the most if you could not work as a barista anymore?
Probably the creative parts of coffee whether it’s latte art, brewing an amazing V60 or deciding what coffee to buy for the café this week. I love the creative parts of being a barista.
What cafes and roasters make the top-five list of places to visit in your city? Where would you take your visitors?
That’s a hard one. Guld Kaffee, Gast, Johan & Nyström, Drop and of course, I have to bring them to my workplace, right? So Café Pascal. All of these places have amazing coffee and amazing staff. For food, I love going to Mahalo or Delivore, but there are also some amazing pizza places around town these days. Babette is the latest place I went to where I could just eat pizza after pizza and never stop. Go there and stuff your face!
What has been the best experience you have had in the speciality coffee industry so far?
I think the whole community around coffee is what I love the most. Going to a café and being greeted by faces that I know and that know me is a great feeling. It’s like having a home away from home. Coffee connects people. Even if I’m in New York or Berlin I can talk to a barista and know that we probably have some common ground and some interesting stories to share with each other. That’s my favourite part of the coffee industry. I’ve just met so many amazing people through it.
Quick Fire Question
Would you serve filter coffee with milk, if asked for it?