Barista Magazine

DEC 2018 - JAN 2019

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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TEVEN MOLONEY WINS THINGS, like, all the time. It's almost by accident, though. The Australian two-time Barista Champion of Sweden (you read that right) most recently won a coffee-picking contest in Colombia (beating out some exceptionally competitive Ameri- can coffee champs), and the Swedish AeroPress Championship (which he decided to enter on a whim). He admits he's competitive by nature, but Steve actually prefers being behind the scenes rather than center stage. His work history refl ects that: Back when he still lived in his hometown of Brisbane, Australia, Steve was a production manager for a music festival. He moved to Sweden in 2012 and worked as a roadie building stages and mixing audio for bands, and he even helped a friend build light rigs to be used on tours. Though he eventually found his fi t when he got a barista job at Love Coffee Roasters in 2015 and discovered a passion for the coffee community similar to what he enjoyed about working amongst musi- cians, he gravitated out of the limelight and into the wings once again, working as a trainer and a roaster, and eventually making a career out of putting on fun, inclusive, entirely free competitions that are part silly, part serious for coffee people in a party atmosphere, and calling them The Barista League (TBL). As with so many things that go on to be great, the fi rst TBL came together kind of by chance. Steve credits the founders of Love Coffee, Daniel Remheden and Peter Frenhoff, along with then-coworker and decorated coffee champ Emil Ericsson, with coming up with the name. The three of them had an idea for an ongoing league of teams from across Sweden. "I think early on I realized it would be impossible to get the same team to compete more than once, so we settled on a three-round multidisciplinary competition in teams of two," Steve recalls. "I did all the arranging, we got a keg of beer and some food, and had a great little summer party in a suburb of Lund with fi ve teams of two and about 60 onlookers. The response was great and the event went super well, but I had the experience that I now realize is very common to people who arrange local throwdowns: You spend weeks begging people to come, spend a lot of energy on arranging it, getting prizes, setting up, and then the turn out is a bit…meh. So after that fi rst one I was pretty tired and ready to not do it again." Of course, history played out a little differently. Today, Steve is proud of the fact that the TBL events—there have been 14 total, plus some epic TBL parties, and last summer marked TBL's fi rst trip over- seas for a super successful four-city U.S.A. tour—feel pretty much the same today as they did when they started. "I want the focus of the event not to be on the rules or the actual competition, but the experience of the people who are there. In my opinion there is no point having the best competition ever if it is super boring to attend, or the volunteers hate it or it is scheduled during the daytime when no one can come. My goal is always the same: I want everyone who shows up to leave with more than they came with, be that excitement, inspiration, prizes, whatever." Full disclosure: I was bananas for The Barista League from the fi rst time I heard about it a couple of years ago, and Barista Magazine has been and continues to be a very proud partner of TBL events interna- tionally. Along the way, Steve's become a good friend. We even got to travel together to Colombia as tagalongs on the Ally Coffee Champs Trip in October, though Steve walked away a champion of sorts him- self when he won that picking competition. Though Steve is no longer a day-to-day barista, we asked him to be on the cover of this issue be- cause his is very much a story of coffee success. He created something from nothing and made it good—really good. He accepted the long hours, the lack of compensation in the beginning, and the heavy lifting of creating a brand and a business and growing it into something that is now recognizable around the world. (Since the success of the TBL U.S.A. Tour, Steve has been approached by coffee pros from around the world to bring the event to their countries.) I appreciate that Steve understands how traditional barista com- petitions work—he's won them in Sweden and gone on to place quite respectably in the World Barista Championship. With TBL though, he has created something that's never existed before. It's not the anti– barista competition because it is something all its own. And it's fabu- lous. Steve's 28 years old, and his and TBL's stories are already rich. Sarah Allen: The fi rst question has to be about you being an Austra- lian living in Sweden. How did that come about and why do you love it enough that you're still there six years later? Steve Moloney: My family had always traveled a lot starting when my parents took four kids (ages 2, 4, 15, and 18) on a road trip from Colombia to L.A, and then to live in London for two years. As an adult I have no idea what they were thinking, but after that and having seen my older siblings travel, I always fi xated on going back to Latin America and the U.K. and traveling as much as I could. So basically, as soon as I fi nished school, I started working and saving money to travel as much and for as long as I could. As much as I was probably an insufferable 19-year-old traveling with a backpack, it was amazing to get a glimpse into the world that is outside my white suburban existence back in Brisbane. SA: You traveled for 11 months, from Ar- gentina all the way up through South and Central America to Mexico—that's wild! What did you do after that? SM: From 2009 to 2012, I was back in Bris- bane for a few years, fi nishing university and working part time in a crazy restau- rant and playing as much music as I could. About that time, I got a gig as a production manager for a local council-run music festival and I started to meet all of these amazing arts producers around Brisbane. I remember working with some of these (mostly female) producers and just thinking they were so cool and competent and had such cool jobs. I still think that they were some of the best people I have had a chance to work with. I really love the fact that events are going to hap- pen whether you are ready or not, so a lot of the job is problem-solv- ing, being pragmatic, and delivering the best thing you can with the resources you have. SA: But then you decided to move to Sweden, right? SM: Yeah. I thought, Sweden is cool, I'm 22, why the hell not. Having lived here for almost six years now, I actually like it more and more. Despite people telling me almost every day that I am crazy for giving up the weather in Australia, I don't really care. I am an inside person anyway and I love the change of seasons here (plus I still love snow). Also, getting to live in a super-progressive country has shaped a lot of my views and choices which I think has made me a better person, even if it is a luxury of living in such a well-off country. SA: You didn't get into coffee until you were living in Sweden though, right? SM: So, yeah, although I had worked in cafés before this, my fi rst , According to the website, How to be Swedish, fi ka is a big part of Swedes' everyday life. Fika basically just means 'to have a coffee'—but it's so much more than that. Fika has been described as a social institution and even phenomena. Swedish people—along with Australian transplant Steve Moloney—love their fi ka. 71 www.baristamagazine.com

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