Timothy Sweet

We sat down at Base Espresso in Broadbeach with one of the world's top latte artists, Barista Timothy Sweet

Here's what we found out about Tim and the coffee biz...

How long have you been roasting coffee?

I’m not roasting so much, I’m more focused on operations. I’ve been in the coffee industry 12-13 years now.

How did you become interested in coffee and what did you do to get started?

I tried many different things, I was a boat builder, I was in kitchens, bartending. I cant explain it, but I kept getting drawn back to coffee and the lifestyle. Coffee is so complex and such a forever thing. It has really drawn me in. It’s a seed from a cherry that we are roasting, then extracting for oil and putting in a cup with milk. It’s captivating. 

How did you end up at Base?

I was working at Black board coffee with a guy named Skinny (who is at Raw Espresso in Southport) and he told me about this coffee shop that had a great location but could do a little better. He said the problem was that it was in a shopping centre, and I was up for the challenge. I thought I would try my hand at making a change. 

We’ve heard you are trying to change the coffee culture. Why are you doing that?

There is a cleaner way to roast coffee and people need to know about it. 

What do you want people to know about the coffee they are drinking?

Let go of what they have been told and open their mind to something new, and to take the time to ask questions. 

Coffee presentation has turned into an art form. What are your thoughts on how much effort is put into making a cup look good. 

You eat with your eyes but you drink with your eyes as well. I think it sends a message that you have made the coffee with a great deal of care. Its a conversation piece.

(Tim is one of the world’s top latte artists. You can find his work on Instagram @TimothySweetBarista)

How do you think the Gold Coast coffee scene compares to Australia’s more metropolitan cities?

I think it has a long way to go. At the moment the coffee shops on the Gold Coast that are making a lot of noise aren't necessarily good. They are appealing to a market that is quite young and perhaps doesn't know good coffee yet. It’s more about the social media aspect instead of how good the coffee actually is. 
However, once upon a time you could say that there isn't a good cup of coffee on the Gold Coast. That isn't the case anymore. There are a lot of shops pushing the envelope and as a Gold Coast barista you can hold your head up high and be proud. 

What’s Base Espresso’s point of difference?

We are trying to introduce the general public to speciality coffee. 

Where do you go for a cup of coffee aside from Base? (We asked for one, but Tim knows too many good ones!)

Good Day, Percy’s, Good Bean, Paper cup, Black Board, No Name Lane, Canteen, Barefoot, Parlour, All Time, Bambam, Paddock, Elk Espresso and Silipo Cafe.

What’s your favourite restaurant?

Little Truffle and Song birds.

Where do you go to grab a beer?

Brooklyn Depot, Black Coffee Lyrics or Etsu. 

What’s the one place you think people visiting need to check out?

Tamborine Mountain.

Tim was also kind enough to give us a little insight into the underbelly of the coffee world...

Here is what he wants you to know about the coffee you are drinking:

For a long time I was trained and taught to produce as much crema (a thin layer of foam at the top of a cup of espresso) as possible because it was a sign of freshness and quality. It’s true that it’s a sign of freshness, but it’s by no means a standard of the coffee’s quality.

It’s been well documented that the crema is made of carbon dioxide gas, which is highly addictive and not good for you. 

There are typically two styles of roasting, light and dark. Light roasts are fruity, but the trouble in the past was that they were inconsistent because the bean wasn't roasted all the way though, so it became famous for being sour and grassy.
Dark roasts were more consistent and easier for people to roast, but the fruitiness was lost. This is troublesome because it loses the traits of the actual bean. 

Because of people usually roasting dark, people have become accustomed to the favour of the roasting process and not the actual coffee it self. 
Now, the market was found on the flavours of the roast, and most people now confuse the roast flavour with how coffee is supposed to taste, and that’s what they want. 

Recently we have become better at roasting and we learned that we can roast a lot more gentle and a lot more smooth. We have a way of roastingwhere we can get the consistency people expect from a dark roast, but is still a light roast and keeps the flavours of the fruit (a coffee bean is actually a cherry).

Roasting light means that you have to search out a higher quality green bean, if there is a mistake, you can taste it. With the old way of roasting, if a mistake was made, it was washed away by the roasting taste. 

Using a cheaper bean means covering up mistakes with the roast and big companies have more money for marketing. 

Which also means the big companies are dictating the market and telling baristas how coffee should taste and the baristas are then preaching that to the customer. In that cycle, the not as good roasted beans are getting more exposure, and hardly anyone knows about this clearer way to roast coffee and drink coffee. 

Our goal is to change that, change the expectation and to have people drinking Uncle Joe’s light roast coffee. A lot of our signage warns the coffee will have a different flavour. That seems to be fine as long as the customer expects it, and we are finding is that they are liking our coffee more. It’s almost like a psychological experiment. We’ve had to do a lot of education regarding the different process in which the coffee was made. When we first introduced Uncle Joe’s coffee to our customers, it took a while to catch on, but now we have people that would never go back. We are calling this the 3rd wave. 

For the people who know about the clearer way to roast coffee, they seek out the cafes using these beans, they find it hard to go back to the old roasting style because they think the coffee tastes dirty; they can recognise the flavours of carbon dioxide straight away. 

Hopefully soon everyone will be drinking cleaner and less addictive coffee products that require less sugar and milk to taste good. 

Base Espresso: Oasis Shopping Centre 32 Hill Street, Broadbeach

By Marleigh Kelly