He was six years old when he had his first coffee. By then he did not know coffee was going to be his greatest interest. Something he would even dream about at night. Meet Alex Ntatsos, barista at Löfbergs Rosteri & Kaffebar in Stockholm and Sweden’s representative at the World Latte Art Championship.
It all began in his grandmother’s kitchen in Albania. Even if he was only six, he can vividly remember what he saw and the scents that struck him. How his grandmother roasted and grounded the beans before she brewed the coffee. A real piece of craftmanship.
- I thought it tasted good, maybe because I added tons of sugar. But the coolest thing was to see my grandmother’s passion. It rubbed off on me.
We are now sitting in Alex’s kitchen in his Stockholm apartment. When looking around, there are many things that tell us that this is the home of a coffee enthusiast. A really good espresso machine sits on the countertop. Next to it, a lot of speciality coffee. There are cups and other stuff on the kitchen table that Alex uses when he practices. Because he does practice. At work as well as at home.
- When I am home, I try to take a break from work. It usually does not go that well. I often practice a couple of hours here too.
Otherwise, he does what many of us do. Watch TV, exercises and listens to music. On Sundays, he plays football with his neighbours. He and his partner share an interest in food and wine, and when he surprises her with something extra, he makes entrecôte with asparagus and red wine sauce.
- Then we have a competition to see who makes the best coffee. She is better than me at filter coffee, but I make a better latte.
On his Saturdays off, Alex often starts his day with a cup of hand-brewed coffee. A method called Pour over, where the slow brew really brings out the aromas and characteristics of the coffee.
- I am totally into our speciality coffee from Kenya right now, a full-bodied and acidic coffee with notes of blackcurrant.
Occasionally, he sits by the TV. The programs he watches may surprise you. Until you learn that Alex moved to Sweden in 2016 and spend a lot of time improving his Swedish.
- That is why I mostly watch children’s programs; they help me a lot. Swedish is a very difficult language to learn. A lot more difficult than making a really nice-looking latte.
In June, Alex is going to Berlin to represent Sweden at the World Latte Art Championship. The competition consists of several elements, but in short, it is about making the best-looking milk pattern in an espresso. The judges will look at creativity, symmetry and degree of difficulty.
Some patterns are compulsory, others the contestants get to come up with themselves. Alex is often inspired by nature when he creates his patterns. No wonder, as he is a trained landscape architect.
- If I had to quit as a barista I would probably start working as a landscape architect again. I was given room for my interest in design at the same time as I contributed to a positive development of society.
We thank Alex for the chat and wish him good luck at the world championship. When we say goodbye, Alex stands by the window. He takes out a spray bottle and gently showers one of his plants. What is in the pot? A coffee plant, of course.