Maciej Duszak is a barista and coffee educator working and living in Wrocław. He is also known through his project called Arabean (the serie of educative videos on various coffee related topics) and he is the current champion of Polish barista competition Proinfuzja Barista Challenge. Enjoy the interview and meet Maciej!
Could you describe your coffee story? Where does your interest in coffee comes from? What was your first job as a barista like?
It was pretty ordinary beginning. My father bought an automatic espresso machine. A kind of ‘one in all' device that grinds coffee and brews a very dull espresso-like beverage. I’m always trying to increase my knowledge about things and learn how to do them better, so I started to search online and I found a huge coffee geeks forum, then it started like hell! I couldn't stop reading about machines, extraction, varieties and other stuff. It seemed like a dark magic for me.
Right after that I moved to Wrocław to study and a couple days later I applied for a job in Coffee Heaven which is the Polish Starbucks actually. I got a job and finally had an opportunity to practice. I spent hours and hours reading about coffee and tried to make it better in a corporate environment that bound my hands a lot. I couldn't stand the poor quality and lack of respect for coffee culture. But thanks to that I've had to make hundreds of shots daily which has turned out as a great benefit. That's why, after almost two years, I started working in specialty coffee which is another long story.
We met in Wroclaw where you are currently located. What is happening there in terms of speciality coffee?
It's funny because in such a big city like this, you could expect dozens of specialty cafes. The reality is however that there are only about 5 places that I could recommend for specialty coffee. Fortunately there are more and more new places that try to deliver at least good or unusual coffee to customers. The future here in Wroclaw looks very optimistic.
What is really nice is that we have created a barista community and everybody comes together to help each other out. It's not very common between bartenders for example.
We can't forget to mention that specialty coffee in Wrocław is barely 2 years old so the progress is really fast and customers are much more familiar with great brews than anytime before. All in all, I see a lot of potential here and I'm pretty sure there is gonna be more and more great places with excellent coffee in the future.
You won last edition of Polish barista competition called Proinfuzja Barista Challenge. Could you describe the concept of the competition and why it exists?
This is the great idea of Paweł Siemaszko, Błażej Walczykiewicz, Krzysztof Barabosz and many, many other crazy people who decided to create an alternative competition for baristas who are bored with SCAE events in Poland. To fully understand this problem I would have to explain it for hours. But long story short: we wanted to give people an opportunity to compete on a professional level in a great atmosphere with some really nice prizes. It is also a great way to get priceless experience for young baristas before competing in country level or international championships.
The formula is a league table in two categories and a grande finale for the 8 best baristas in each category. Last year there were two categories: latte art and cup tasting. After 5 rounds each month we've held a final in Kraków. Wrocław took 3 out of 6 best places in two finals!
As a winner you have a chance to bring something new for the upcoming editions of competition. What are your plans?
Unfortunately, I can't get more prizes next year … but for now I'd like to help in developing the project. We think it's a good moment to go abroad and create international barista league together with the Czech Republic and maybe other Eastern Europe countries. We aim high so get ready! Of course, we want to expand within Poland, to have more competitors and continuously increase the skill level of Proinfuzja Barista Challenge.
What do you think should happen on the Polish speciality coffee scene to grow and improve in the coming years?
I'm sure that the most important aspect is to educate the customers. We need to not only to bring them an excellent coffee but also teach them how to order it and demand quality adequate to the price. Unfortunately people in Poland don't know much about good quality coffee yet and cafe owners sell us a poor quality product made by people with no skill and passion. We have to ask, complain and demand because it's the only way to force some changes on a bigger scale.
Of course we also have to improve our skills in order to deliver the best possible coffee everyday. My motto is that you can NEVER have a worse day at work. Every customer is super important and needs couple of minutes of explanation about how and why you make his cup. That's the only way to expand a specialty coffee market.
Many people in Poland know you as a guy behind Arabean. What is this goal of this project?
Arabean is only half a commercial project. The other half is education. I train baristas, help to equip cafes or restaurants and educate ‘normal people' who are coffee enthusiasts. I try to save my partners' money so they didn't spend it on unnecessary equipment or services for their business. Arabean is fully independent so I have the freedom of choice in terms of coffee or espresso machines and am always able to bring the best solution.
A couple of weeks ago I started running a video blog which is dedicated to coffee enthusiasts. I explain coffee basics in simple words and help them brew a great coffee at home. It's totally free and a non-profit project.
What advice would you give people who are just starting with (speciality) coffee either as baristas or coffee enthusiasts.
It's a one way ticket! Once you try specialty coffee you'll never go back. If you want to become a barista you have to be serious about it. It's a profession that requires a certain skill so you must always keep going forward and be aware of the responsibility of bringing people what they expect. This is a beautiful journey that often becomes a lifetime adventure as in my case. Make great coffee – everyday better than before!