We chat to a man who really knows his beans (of the coffee variety that is), world championship winning, barista-at-large, Ben Morrow. He’s personally got no time for milk….
Ben Morrow is a highly decorated barista competitor. Winning an abundance of championships throughout his nine year career, including taking both the New York and London coffee masters competitions, and sixth place in the WCE World Latte Art Competition, within the same year. A purveyor of anything delicious, but mostly coffee.
So Ben, what makes a great cup of coffee?
I used to think this one was actually about using specialty coffee or particular milk texture, but in all honesty I think it’s just a coffee that satisfies your needs. There’s so much good coffee in the world, for me it’s just sweetness and the taste of terroir. But for others it might be just a cup of instant. There really is no wrong doing in coffee except not drinking it.
A little birdy tells me you tried to replicate the Futurama challenge, where Fry drinks 100 cups of coffee in one episode?
Hahaha, yeah I really did try to do that in high school. I got to 80 or so cups… I wouldn’t recommend trying it. I more or less induced myself with a week of insomnia and mild stints of vomiting.
Have you ever gone on a coffee detox?
Not yet, but we’ll see hahaha.
Are there any specific brands/suppliers of coffee or equipment you recommend as must haves for someone seeking perfection in a cup at home?
That would depend how much you’re willing to splash out. I would recommend keeping it cheap though as owning a Ferrari doesn’t mean you drive well. Spend some time looking into how to make coffee well. Buy a cheap set of micro scales and a Hariono plastic v60 and you’re ready to go.
You smashed it at Coffee Masters in 2015 AND 2016, what did you dazzle them with?
Coffee masters is a multi faceted competition, where you have to perform well in several categories. That said there is one round where baristas’ really get to express themselves, which is the dig drink round. My sig in NY was made with 21yo brandy, espresso from Popoyan in Colombia, cocchi vermouth and port cask smoke. The one in London was made with two elevations of the same farm cafe la granja’s geisha varieties. Poured over an espresso soaked peach and laced with a seaweed based fog. The idea was that the drink transported you to the farm itself as you can smell the sea there.
Do you have anything against tea?
Not at all. It’s just as delicious and far easier to make.
How do you feel about the battle between independent Vs chains? Is independent always better?
They both play their part. Specialty coffee only contributes around 5% of the total market of green coffee bought and sold. If we take away the big boys that would destabilise the market pretty rapidly. Though buy local whenever you can!
We’ve stalked you on Instagram and you’re making some pretty impressive patterns on those lattes (a swan, really?!). How’s it done and how do we do it?
You really need just the right texture and technique. If your milk is shiny/glossy and feels kind of like paint then you can probably make latte art with it. Other than that it’s just about controlling the distance of the spout of the jug and the surface of the drink. Low/on the surface will give you a clean white spot, as you move further away that spot gets smaller and smaller. Making swans and complex patterns is just adjusting that distance throughout the pouring part.
Should any coffee addict with a conscience be looking into where their coffee comes from?
To a degree, most roasters that try to buy ethically display that on their bags. Fair trade doesn’t necessarily mean that the exchange of money to the farm was a good deal. Talk to your roaster, they’ll usually be happy to talk about where the coffee comes from and how they bought it.
What’s exciting or intriguing you in the world of coffee at the moment?
Things are looking really good at the moment on the ground. A lot of farmers are taking more care in getting their crops as they’d like to express them, reinvesting in equipment to improve quality and so on. Really exciting time ahead!
I tried fizzy coffee in Nashville last year. Are you a fan?
Haven’t had one I’ve liked yet. Call me a purist but I like my coffee black and that’s about it.
We’re forever getting conflicting reports about whether coffee is good or bad for us. What’s your take?
Anything that makes you happy is a good for you. Just don’t take so much of it that it makes you sick.