Coffee Query: Kim Staalman, Speciality Coffee Association of Europe
Kim Staalman has been in coffee for 7 years. Between judging competitions and training coffee trainers across Europe with the SCAE, Kim's involvement in setting the standards for speciality coffee have been fantastic. Her cupping skills, friendliness, and boundless energy are a thing to behold!
What got you into coffee and what’s kept you in coffee?
What got me into coffee was, obviously, I needed money while I was in Uni! One of my friends was working at Coffee Company, and she said, “You need to get a job here, it’d be something for you,” and I wasn’t really sure, but I really liked drinks with whipped cream on it, and they had quite a lot of those!
So, I think I applied twice on their website, and they wouldn’t invite me for an interview, so then, my boyfriend at the time - he sent an application in for me, and then they did invite me!
And then, what kept me in coffee - the people. They’re amazing, first and foremost, but then also the fact that you’re never done learning, which is great. That’s what I love about it - it never gets boring!
What have been your favourite coffees, both in filter and as espresso?
Well, the most memorable filter..that must be my first real “Wow!” coffee - it was, I think, probably 6 years ago, and it was a Kenya Karimikui by James Gourmet.
Somebody ordered an Aeropress for me, and when the barista brought it over on the tray, I could just smell the blueberries from afar, and that’s when it really hit me - really? Amazing! There’s fruit in this! I’d never had such a clear smell - it was the first time it really registered, so that was the most memorable filter..
And espresso, maybe still - when I first competed in the barista championships, I had a very bad choice of coffee - a pacamara from Guatemala, La Cumbre Estate, and it was like a teenager! It kept changing so much, it had mood swings, but I loved it, so I was really set on using this coffee, and it was very grapefruity during the month that was in it, and on the day of the competition itself, it was blood orange all of a sudden, and that was really great!
What’s your home coffee setup?
Well, actually, funny question, I have this silly rule that I don’t make coffee at home!
This is because before I moved to the place where I’m at now, I lived in a student home, and it was very small, and the kitchen was disgusting! So I really hated making coffee there, and people assume that, as a coffee person, you’ll make a cup of coffee for them - so I made it into a thing that I don’t make coffee at home for anyone, and there is an Aeropress there, and a Hario Skerton grinder, and there would be coffee, but I won’t be making it for you.
But actually, since I started working from home, um, I have been secretly making coffee - don’t tell anyone! And then, yeah, I always make an Aeropress. I have Hario scales, too.
Where do you want Holland/Europe's coffee culture to develop next?
Well, in Holland, I would like to see more places that do great food and great coffee, because I think that’s really lacking - it’s either a place that does great coffee and just a croissant or cake, or a place that does really great food and really horrible coffee! It hate it!
There’s only one really good place that does it in Amsterdam, Scandinavian Embassy - they do really great coffee, AND good food, and I go there so often. I want more Fumballys around Europe!
I dunno, I think there’s a strange idea, that as a coffee bar you won’t be taken seriously if you do food, because it should all revolve around the coffee, but I don’t think that’s still the place where we’re at. It should not be that hard!
Who’s someone you admire in coffee?
I think my former boss, Jasper Uhlenbusch, from Coffee Company. He really inspired me to just keep thinking about what’s happening, and to just not always just agree with the trends - just to be less of a one-dimensional hipster version of me! Also when someone says “yes” and someone else says “no,” and they’re very convinced, then he comes in and says something, and everyone is just confused! That’s the effect he has, and that’s really inspiring. And he knows a lot about coffee, which helps.
Maybe I should say Tom Owens, from Sweet Maria’s, because ever since I became a barista I’ve been reading his stuff online, and there’s so much knowledge it’s silly, and it's so extensive. The website, as well, is super interesting, and he does podcasts, and I’m a big podcast fan, so he’s definitely one.
This is terrible, now I have two dudes as my heroes!
Oh, Sonja Grant! She’s my hero. She's super knowledgeable, ridiculously friendly, and a babe. A total babe!
What advice would you give to somebody just starting out in your field?
Look around you, go to all the coffee places that you can go to, be open; be always up for networking, but don’t be pushy. To have a network is super important, that’s how you’ll learn a lot more.
Invest time in learning a lot. Read a lot. Talk to people. Follow courses, read books, read blogs - there’s a lot of information out there.
And stay humble. I think all baristas, myself included, go through a time when we think we know everything about coffee, but it’s a lot more extensive than you’d think.
Also, be nice to your fellow baristas!
What are you drinking now?
Yeah! The Tanzania Amkeni, both from Hoppenworth & Plotch and Roestbar. It really reminded me of Kenya, that’s how many berries were in there, super sweet, thick, and juicy. It really surprised me. I’ve never had a Tanzanian coffee that wowed me so much - Tanzania all the way, baby!