Amazing female baristas, roasters and entrepreneurs of Berlin - Rahel Goldmann

Rahel, aka Rachelle Katz, is a born Berliner and has worked as a barista as well as marketing and public relations manager for Father Carpenter. She recently started supporting the guys from Happy Baristas with implementing table service and bringing a new approach to customer communication to their coffee shop in Friedrichshain. Read about Rahel's approach on hospitality, her ambitions to compete and how she prepares for the upcoming German Aeropress and Barista Championships.

rahel goldmann barista berlin

Rahel, how did you get into coffee?

Sometime in 2013 I heard about a new café around the corner from where I was working, so I went to see what it, my friend called it ‘Australian coffee’, was. I placed my usual order: a Latte Macchiato. The barista told me he could make a café latte instead. I went for it and with the first sip, I was totally blown away by the flavours, it was like an awakening! The espresso was pleasingly acidic and I really enjoyed the smooth texture of the milk that tasted super sweet. Driven by the desire to figure out why this coffee was so different to anything I’ve known before, I started doing research. That's when I slowly began to understand that there’s way more to coffee then just the stuff that wakes me up in the morning. At the time I was managing Cupcake Berlin, which was a good job, but I was eager to learn more about specialty coffee. I went to undertake a beginner's barista course at the Berlin School of Coffee and got my first job at Double Eye. The foundation was set, but I wanted more, I wanted to progress. Shortly after, Father Carpenter started their ‘Rookie Program’, aiming to hire for attitude and train for skills. At that point I was studying Communication and Management at Uni and training to become a skilled specialty coffee barista. After only six months at Father Carpenter, I knew that coffee is what I want to do in my life. I left uni to take on a full-time position at Father Carpenter Coffee Brewers, which in hindsight was a fantastic decision.

After working at Father Carpenter for 1,5 years now, you're moving on to Happy Baristas. What's your role going to be?

At Father Carpenter I've become a spot on hospitality person. Marian and Roland from Happy Baristas saw potential in hiring someone like me as a front of house person. They are in the process of implementing table service and I'll be supporting them in their mission to make coffee more approachable – with strong communication skills. What we are trying to achieve over the course of the next 4 months is to create a more holistic customer experiences. As I am currently training for the Germany Barista Championship, Marian, who is a competitive barista, is a great person to learn from and be trained by. Working at Happy Baristas gives me the opportunity to train under less volume and in more detail. The café has just the right environment for that.

rahel goldmann barista berlin

What do you love about the two coffee shops, Father Carpenter and Happy Baristas?

At Father Carpenter you get the whole package: really good food, delicious coffee and excellent service. The philosophy behind it all, is to increase the quality of life – even if it’s just for these 30 minutes you’ve spend at the café. That's basically it in a nutshell.

Happy Baristas has the aim to make specialty coffee approachable, understandable and accessible for everyone. They're very strong with signature drinks to get people interested and involved, they’re offering a rich and diverse drink menu, not only to please the customer, but also to give the opportunity to access specialty coffee from multiple angles. Happy Baristas are generally very invested in and welcoming to specialty coffee newbies. They also put as much emphasis on nitro teas, to showcase the magnificent flavor profiles of tea and tea drinking in general - a beverage with a thousand year old history.

You've told me you're participating in German Aeropress Championship for the first time. How does the preparation look like?

For the Aeropress Championship you receive the competition coffee two weeks in advance, but you don’t know the varietal, the processing or the region it’s from. All I know at this point is that Five Elephant roasted it. When the actual competition takes place, you will get the same coffee but roasted at a different time in a different batch, so chances are it’ll react slightly different. Obviously other variables such as the water quality will be different too, luckily you can bring your practice water. You get 250g of roasted coffee to practice with and basically need to make it last until a few days before the competition, when it will have the same age as the coffee you'll compete with. It’s my first competition in coffee and of course I want to score at least in the top 3. The Aeropress Championship is a fun competition, which I take seriously regardless, but I’m also looking forward to the BBQ and drinks afterwards. ;-)

And then in winter in the German Barista Champions, how are you preparing for that one?

The Berlin Coffee Festival is coming up this weekend, so we will have a lot of green buyers, roasters and coffee professionals in town. This is very helpful for my coach Marian (Happy Baristas), my roaster Maren (Ernst Kaffeeröster) and myself. We’ll cup different coffees, experiment and hopefully gather some impressions that will feed into my routine. This is going to be the first step. I want to compete because I want to learn a lot and get better, but I also want to tell a story. So my competition’s theme is just as close to my heart as the divine coffee I’ll be using. Competing on a national level provides a good stage to talk about certain issues and challenges we are facing in the industry, so it'll be a good audience for the phenomenon I am trying to display and describe in my competition’s narrative. It'll have a certain political approach to coffee and women in coffee. I obviously can't give away too much at this point.

rahel goldmann barista berlin

What are your aspirations for the future?

I am moving to Australia in 2018, thanks to a scholarship, for Sommelier classes. Working in coffee made me understand the multiple layers of hospitality as well as experiencing flavours in a whole new way. First came coffee, then came wine, I’ve recently even started to enjoying Whiskey, for example! Once you learn to ‘listen to what you taste’, the entire food and beverage industry becomes such a wild beautiful playground. I am looking forward to learn more about every single aspect.

After the sommelier classes, whilst obviously working in coffee still, the next step could be to become a chef or a pastry chef, anything that extends my horizon basically. I’ve got another good 50 years on this planet (knocks on wood) and I don’t want to stop learning and improving ever. I can predict that I’m not going to get tired of engaging people in the greater beauty of taste and talking about a wholesome approach to the products we’re sourcing and consuming.

Thanks so much Rahel and best of luck for your competition goals!

Read more interviews from the series 'Amazing female baristas, roasters and entrepreneurs of Berlin'

and check out my guide to Berlin specialty coffee shops here.

Amazing female baristas, roasters and entrepreneurs of Berlin - Nora Šmahelová

Nora is originally from the Czech Republic and has been residing in Berlin since 1999. In 2002 she won the second national barista championships in Germany and has since then opened Chapter One and Coffee Profilers in Berlin as co-owner and judged numerous competitions. Read about her experience as a judge and other insightful aspects from her career in coffee.

nora smahelova

Nora, what triggered your career in coffee?

When I started to work in coffee, I was a student looking for any kind of part time job where I could earn money. So I ended up working at Einstein in 1999. At that time they were super advanced, just using Arabica beans, doing latte art and having their own roaster. Today this is kind of normal but for those times it was something special. I didn’t give a shit about what I would do to finance my studies.  I actually quit my job as a barista after the German championships. I was 21 and as I come from a very intellectual family, everyone had plans for my future, and I didn’t want to stay in the gastronomy sector.  And even coffee is gastronomy. I was craving input for my brain.

But now you’re here, so what happened?

I don’t know. The advantage of winning the competition was that there was a lot of publicity surrounding it. It’s not like I enjoyed walking around saying I was a barista champion but winning made it easier for me to get jobs. Like in 2003, I was invited to judge my first competition.

What are your current roles in the coffee industry?

I am co-owner of two Berlin based specialty coffee shops, Chapter One and Coffee Profilers, where I also work as a barista. For La Marzocco Deutschland I am their brand ambassador and social media representative since February and I recently also started working with the green coffee company Ally Coffee. I am one of their company members for Europe. I am working at fairs for Hario and am also a WCE representative and AST trainer.

And how did the idea come up for Chapter One and Coffee Profilers?

My business partner and me used to work in a coffee shop together. I was studying at the University of Arts at that time, while he was into Herbalism. When I started a job in product design, I realized I didn’t like it. As I still had the dream to do my own design work, we were thinking about opening our own place while doing other things on the side. We opened Chapter One in 2011.

Coffee Profilers came later, in 2015. It is a project with different business partners and one of the results of me diving deeper into coffee without really planning on it.

nora smahelova chapter one

What is the philosophy behind Chapter One and Coffee Profilers?

When we started with Chapter One, I wouldn’t say we had a vision, but we wanted to focus just on coffee and especially filter. Therefore, we have many filter coffees on the menu and all kinds of different brewing methods. The most important aspect of it is our unique team. We try to do coffee seriously, but are unpretentious at the same time. For us personality is more important than experience, because you can teach everyone how to make coffee but you cannot teach the right mindset.

The most important for me is the customer service. We try to understand the needs of the customer, keep a low profile and cater to everyone. This means though, although we change the espresso every day, that some of our customers don’t ever notice a difference.

It is kind of the same for coffee profilers.  I did the design for both places and the idea was to create the design according to the available space, which is why they are very different from each other.

You’ve just participated in the event Barista Connect, a coffee event for women, and were also a speaker. How was it?

I felt stressed because I had to give a speech and I don’t know if I will ever feel well prepared for something like that. I was also doing cuppings for Ally Coffee and gave workshops for La Marzocco.  I like the idea behind Barista Connect and it was interesting to be a part of it and to contribute. I liked that there was a very mixed audience, including women from origin countries.

What do you think is the biggest difference between an event such as Barista Connect and coffee events where both men and women take part?

Honestly, I don’t know. It depends on your personality I guess. I would say it is exactly the same. For me, it is actually a big advantage to be a women in the coffee industry. I never had problems. Sure, some countries are more difficult than others. In some Mediterranean countries, for example, people may have a different mentality. If you know how to handle it, it’s not a problem.

You’ve won the German Barista Championships in 2002. Have you participated in other competitions?

No. I really didn’t care about coffee that much when I participated. I took part in the regional competition in Berlin out of fun, where I came in 2nd. The same goes for the national competition. I had fun and won an espresso machine on top of that, which was wow! The other perk was a trip to Oslo to participate in the world barista championships.

What competitions do you judge and how do you experience competitions from a judge’s perspective?

In 2003 I started judging national competitions in German speaking countries. At some point I wanted to improve and the obvious next step was the international judges certification. I became a WBC certified judge in 2011. I was almost more nervous than the competitors because there’s such pressure to decide if something is good or bad. It took a long time to get used to having to judge and decide. Often when I am sitting in the judges’ panel I am thinking: “Why am I not competing?”.

I was a technical judge first, moved on to sensory and then became a WCE representative. In order for a country to organize a legal competition, they have to invite a representative who makes sure it is all going according to the rules. It’s interesting when I get to go to countries I haven’t been to before. It`s broadening my own horizon by getting to know new people and different cultures. In September I am flying to Dubai to judge for example, a new experience for me.

chapter one specialty coffee berlin

Do you have any advice for baristas who want to compete?

It is mostly about reading the rules. I see many baristas who have the potential, but it is important to invest time and internalize the rules. If you want to win you have to stick to the rules and understand them and have a lot of discipline.

What are your aspirations for the future?

I want to do more of my own projects, like making ceramics or organizing an exhibition for my drawings. I’d also like to keep learning and improving. This is why I started working with Ally to learn more about green coffee. It is a totally new perspective and I am excited to dig into it.

Thank you Nora!

Read more interviews from the series 'Amazing female baristas, roasters and entrepreneurs of Berlin'

and check out my guide to Berlin specialty coffee shops here.

Meet the Barista - Latte Artist Dritan Alsela

If you search the internet for latte art you might come across Dritan Alsela, an exceptional barista and latte artist based in Düsseldorf, Germany, who is creating real coffee experiences in a matter of seconds. I've become aware of Dritan's talents through Youtube, where countless videos of his art are going viral. As I was heading to Düsseldorf anyways, I thought I'd check out his coffee place 'Bazzar' on a Sunday afternoon and I got lucky. Although he travels a lot, Dritan was in Düsseldorf that particular day and sat with me for a chat.

The 'Bazzar Caffè' was bustling, it was almost at capacity and friendly staff was roaming the room to satisfy the coffee craving crowd. I sat down with a latte, had a delicious Italian sandwich and enjoyed the dynamic atmosphere. Shortly after, I was joined by Dritan and the assistant manager Mariette and we immersed into coffee talk. Dritan is the owner of the second 'Bazzar Caffè' in a neighbourhood called Flingern. 'Bazzar' is an established brand in Düsseldorf and was founded 1996 in the tradition of an Italian coffee bar, a concept that has been successful until today.

dritan alsela latte art specialty coffee
dritan alsela latte art specialty coffee

Dritan is in the coffee business since 1998. He discovered latte art by accident, Mariette tells me. While pouring countless coffee drinks over the years he stumbled upon a Rosetta and perfected his technique. His customers were so impressed with the art in their cup, they encouraged him to publish pictures and videos online. This is how Dritan became an internet icon for latte art.

When I asked about current coffee trends and coffee competitions it became evident that he was not interested in the fuzz and the marketing that comes with the third wave movement. More so, what drives him is a massive and sincere passion for coffee: "What is extremely important is how you prepare your coffee, from evenly roasting, to grinding and brewing, every step needs to be flawless to make a good coffee." A clear indication for whether a coffee is well prepared is the aftertaste for Dritan, "...coffee needs to leave a pleasant taste in your mouth".

dritan alsela latte art specialty coffee

Like any proper craftsman, Dritan owns an atelier, situated just around the corner from 'Bazzar Caffè', where he experiments with different roasts, meets like-minded coffee people or gives latte art workshops. Although often mistaken for one, this space is not a coffee place. When he suggested to head over there I got really excited and my jaw dropped upon entering this unique space. Every detail is tuned so that it harmonises with the atmosphere Dritan wanted to create. A mix of warm and cool colours, plants and a beautiful drawing of a coffee map done by a friend of Dritan make this space stand out, but what really catches the eye are the custom made espresso machines that decorate the counter. I tell Dritan about my coffee experience in Panama, where I cupped some delicious Geisha from Kotowa coffee. It just so happened that he had a pack of Geisha from Panama, roasted by Toby's Estate coffee roasters, and decided to brew us some. In the studio this humble man is in his element and it was wicked to observe every step of the brewing process carried out by Dritan with dedication and care. Something like five coffee later, I head back to the city center with a caffeine overdose, thinking to myself that one day I will tell my kids about that time that Dritan Alsesa drew me a flower in a cup. Awesome coffee moment!

Check out my other travel and coffee guides in Germany!