Interview with Kyle Straw

Kyle Straw - Caffe Artigiano in Vancouver

Kyle Straw - Caffe Artigiano in Vancouver

Caffe Artigiano | Vancouver

I had a talk recently with Kyle Straw who is one of the top Baristas in Vancouver, he won the Western Canadian Barista Championship in August 2009, I asked him to create some latte art and pour some espresso beverages which you will see in this interview.

What lead you to joining Caffe Artigiano? And how long have you been a Barista there?

I began working at Caffe Artigiano in February 2007 while I was taking some classes at UBC.  To be honest, I joined the team because I needed some money to pay for school.  After a few months I knew that this was where I wanted to be, so when school let out for the summer I started working full time. I haven’t looked back since.  I’ve been a barista for a little over two years.

How are you involved with Caffe Artigiano?

I manage one of our busiest cafes at 763 Hornby Street.  I love the challenge of running a busy café, and I love catering to our many customers and having the opportunity to talk to them about coffee.  I have also been involved with training the staff at new store openings.  And I’ve also had the opportunity to act as a training partner with Caffe Artigiano baristas as they prepared for national and international competitions.

How long did you train for the Western Canadian Barista Championship?

My training really began when I got to help Mike Yung train for the 2007 national competition.  I feel like I’ve been constantly learning new things about coffee since then.  Every time I learn something new I become a better barista.

What supplies and tools of the trade did you use in your presentation at the Championship?

I didn’t use too many tools or supplies other than a whip cream charger, and the more standard barista equipment like tamper, grinder, etc.

Describe the drink you created as your “custom” drink in the 2009 Western Canadian Barista Championship & how long did it take to create your signature drink?

I created a triple layer foam drink out of espresso, mango, and cream.  On the bottom was a carbonated mango foam, the middle layer was an espresso foam, and on top was a mango whipped cream.  I think it took about 2 months to go from the design phase to the final signature drink I used at the competition.

I asked Kyle if he could make his signature drink from the competition, however since I didn’t have the ingredients, he offered to create some of his stellar creations.

Beautiful Tulip art on the Latte

Beautiful Tulip art on the Latte

Facial Expressionate Latte Art

Facial Expressionate Latte Art

Monkshead Macchiato

Monkshead Macchiato

Rosetta Latte Art

Rosetta Latte Art

Artistic Mocha

Artistic Mocha

What inspired you to become a leader in the Canadian coffee industry as a Barista?

I’m a pretty passionate person and I find it very fulfilling to be constantly learning.  When I started at Caffe Artigiano, I found myself at a company that took coffee seriously, and was growing.  It was a great opportunity, so I took it, and here I am.

Do you have any mentors in the coffee industry, and if so who and why?

I’d say I’ve probably learned more about coffee from Vince Picollo than any other person.  He’s incredibly passionate and knowledgeable about coffee.

What is your own personal favorite coffee? and why?

We’re always getting new coffees and losing the old ones so it’s hard to have a personal favourite.  But, my favourite on our current menu is a Sidamo Kasara.  It’s sweet and delicate, and I love the floral notes on it.

What did you do before becoming a Barista?

I worked as a biological engineer in the wastewater industry.  It wasn’t a very glorious job, and there were definitely no god in my cup experiences there.

What is your favorite dessert to have with an espresso?

Black Forest Cake.

What interests do you have outside of the coffee business?

I like to run, and read a good book with a great cup of coffee.

By: Richard Wolak