Nominated by Melanie Boehme
Nicole Battefeld is the head roaster and barista team leader at Berlin’s Röststätte. A former professional chef, Battefeld is the 2018 German Barista Champion and the founder of the Female Barista Society, “a project to encourage women by sharing knowledge and passion for coffee.” The Society is currently raising funds to offer free education, technical training, and other opportunities to womxn and female-identified coffee professionals in Germany and beyond.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
What issue in coffee do you care about most?
It's hard to name one… but if I would have to choose I'd say education. It's the most boring thing in the world to just read books about processing and farming and roasting, origins and techniques, but I think it is the most important part BEFORE you start working as a barista. People can then understand the whole complexion of this trade much better.
What cause or element in coffee drives you?
Becoming better at what I do. Obviously competing is a different side of the normal barista work and very far away from reality, but it just really pushes me to always become better and to get a stage where I can share passion and hopefully inspire one or two other people to learn more about what coffee actually is and why it means so much to me.
What issue in coffee do you think is critically overlooked?
Besides the fact that women are still underrepresented in leading positions in the big coffee industry, I think there should be an open discussion if the “barista profession” should be more like an official educational apprenticeship. Being a chef took me three years of training, but becoming a barista in a paid barista position takes just three days of a paid seminar? And people do believe that they are actually baristas after three days of learning how to use an espresso machine and paying way too much money.
I also think that's our biggest problem. It's so easy to work in a coffee shop. So many students do it and it just loses its value. If people realize how much know-how you actually need to be a professional, they would respect us more and we would at the same time probably get paid much better.
What is the quality you like best about coffee?
It connects people. Every day. And at the same time, it's the perfect companion when you want to be alone. I can not name one just one quality, I am too obsessed with the topic and due to all the competitions, I have changed the way I look at coffee completely. It's like I am in a relationship with it. Sometimes I just don't understand it. It makes me frustrated. And also a lot of the times it makes me calm, happy, it helps me be the person that I want to be. The biggest benefit of coffee is: it always surprises me. It opens doors and opportunities and never gets boring.
Did you experience a “god shot” or life-changing moment of coffee revelation early in your career?
I think I'm not one of the “big wow moment” people. When I was 18 it just started and never left.
What is your idea of coffee happiness?
I have two ideas.
Number one: I meet international coffee people and can connect, be nerdy, have fun with people I would have probably never met in my entire life and every time there are events that evolve around coffee I feel truly like I am meeting a bunch of old friends, which makes me very very happy.
Number two: sitting in my kitchen next to the window drinking a filter coffee and just watching the people on the street.
If you could have any job in the coffee industry, what would it be and why?
If I could choose I would like to work as a barista for two days, as a roaster for one day, as a marketing assistant for one day, and one day I would just give trainings. I am pretty happy that I can kind of like do that at my current job, but I would just like to do all these things for one day so I could focus on them more whilst I am doing them.
Who are your coffee heroes?
There are so many! There are people that inspire me now, every day and I will never forget how I watched Erna Tosberg in 2015 on the screen during her German barista competition. I guess she was when it all started. Otherwise, my bosses at Röststätte are pretty intense. They literally dedicated their whole life to their company and running it so successful since many many years. Their stubbornness and hard work is definitely inspiring me every day.
If you could drink coffee with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?
Jordan Montgomery. Because there is no one else in the world I would rather drink coffee with and luckily he's pretty alive.
If you didn't get bit by the coffee bug, what do you think you'd be doing instead?
I'd probably still work as a chef in a star restaurant. Would I be happy is the question.
Do you have any coffee mentors?
Hmm… I have a lot of people that are my mentors in different situations. What has been very consistent are my supporters and I guess that's what helps me the most. It feels good when you know there are people that have your back.
What do you wish someone would've told you when you were first starting out in coffee?
To learn more and to educate myself more. I mean I have done it but it took a long time until I found out about specialty coffee and what's behind it. I feel like I've lost all those years when I meet baristas that are much younger than me and know so much and have already done many many degrees.
Name three coffee apparatuses you'd take into space with you.
Ok, let's be honest. If I would go to space I would swap the water that was meant to be for the coffee with champagne, I would probably swap the coffee that I was meant to be brewing with illegal substances and I would swap the coffee equipment with a turntable. I mean, when in space…
Best song to brew coffee to:
Crazy by Aerosmith. It just came into my head so guess that's my answer.
Look into the crystal ball—where do you see yourself in 20 years?
I see myself with my pig Rolfi (obviously I will adopt a pig one day) in my own crazy little coffee shop, hopefully working the positions from question number 7.
What'd you eat for breakfast this morning?
A cheese croissant, still warm, so buttery that the paper bag could never disguise the evil deed I am doing to my cholesterol levels.
When did you last drink coffee?
Today at 4pm when I finished training for this year's World Coffee In Good Spirits competition.
What was it?
That is so evil! Well obviously it was in one of my cocktails so now I don't know if it counts… but it was a Panama Caturra and incredible!
Zachary Carlsen is a co-founder and editor at Sprudge Media Network. Read more Zachary Carlsen on Sprudge.