Barista Magazine

OCT-NOV 2017

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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60 barista magazine FOR SOMEONE WHO IDENTIFIES HERSELF AS AN INTROVERT, Rojes has a knack for bringing people together. After the success of the wuchta mleka w kawie, tej! events, she gathered her barista peers into a startup coffee club called the Brisman Crew. (The name comes from the shop she co-owns, Brisman Kawowy Bar. Where does that name come from? Forgetting the exact word for "barista," her friend's mom said "brisman." "We liked it so much that we decided to call the coffee shop this," she says. (Kawowy, by the way, just means coffee.) "The Brisman Crew was an idea of creating a community of baristas that shared knowledge [and] experience, and learned together, and created coffee events together," says Rojes, 29. Her desire to foster coffee community has grown even larger since then: She is an elected member of the Barista Guild of Europe's Working Group, where she focuses on education and development. It all goes back to making connections, though. "I want the barista community to be a place not only to learn something new but also to exchange experiences, discuss, and create," she says. If anyone understands how lonely it can be trying to advance in coffee, it's Rojes. Though she was successful as a competitor right off the bat, making fi nals in both the Polish Barista and Latte Art Championships in 2011, she came to fi nd out that her achievements made her less desirable as a hired barista, not more. At the time, specialty coffee had barely made a ripple in Pozna ń , so employers didn't see the value in having a titlehold- er, and what's more, assumed they couldn't afford her anyway. She found comfort in schoolwork, and focused on earning her mas- ter's degree at Poznań's University of Economics. She never left coffee behind, though: in fact, she was more enthusiastic about it than ever. Rojes began dreaming of opening her own shop, as well as continuing and amplifying her studies. While planning the café, she began work on a Ph.D. in—what else?—coffee. In September of 2012, the doors to Pozna ń 's quirkiest coffee shop opened. Brisman Kawowy Bar is in a basement painted bright orange. In a nod to Rojes' signature latte art pour, the space is full of Darth Vader masks. "It's the kind of place you love or dislike from the begin- ning," she laughs. At the start of 2017, however, Rojes left daily café work behind. While she's still co-owner, she now spends most of her time on the road for competition and training. "My coffee life has become so fast and dynamic and unpredictable," says Rojes, who in the past three years has traveled to France, Australia, Italy, the United States, Belgium, Denmark, China, Brazil, Ireland, the U.K., Korea, Hungary, and more for coffee competitions. It's paid off, too: She's a three-time Polish Barista Champion, a four- time Polish Latte Art Champion, and this year at the World of Coffee event in Budapest, she realized her dream of making the fi nals in the World Latte Art Championship. She placed third. Like a true competitor though, as soon as the dream came true, she had a whole new one to pursue—more on that soon. Suffi ce it to say, life for Rojes is faster-paced than she's ever been, and not only that: She's happier and more inspired by coffee than she has ever been. Thank goodness she slowed down for this interview, though—other- wise we never would have caught up with her. Sarah Allen: Hey, Agnieszka! We're so excited to feature you in Barista Magazine! Let's start with an easy one: Do you have any nicknames? Agnieszka Rojewska: It's also a great honor for me. I think I read your email like fi ve times before it really sunk in that you guys wanted to talk to me about my coffee life. I do have a nickname—maybe even a few. The most common one is Rojes, which is just a shortcut from my sur- name. But sometimes people call me the Darth Vader of Polish Latte Art, because in one of my fi rst latte art competitions, I drew Darth Vader in the designer latte [portion]. SA: Before we get in to your history and work in coffee, I wanted to ask you about your dad. He has a little something to do with coffee, too, right? AR: Yes! My dad, Jacek, is an engineer, and when I was younger, he worked mostly with agricultural heavy machines. Now he has [his own] company and is more or less in the coffee business. I say he is the Polish Reg Barber because he produces tampers and knockboxes, and also he used to make trophies for the Polish coffee championships. My mum, Dorota—a high-school math teacher—helps him with this business as much as it is possible. SA: That's wild! So does that mean your family drank really good cof- fee at home when you were growing up? AR: Not at all! I guess they drank regular "Polish coffee." Most of the people in Poland still drink coffee this way, but you might not be familiar with it. They buy already-ground coffee, and pour almost-boil- ing hot water on it. It's similar to cupping, but it breaks most of the cupping protocol rules! My mother drank it with milk, and I think Dad drank it black. My mum was able to drink one coffee and that was enough for the whole day. Also there was instant coffee at home. My brother didn't like the ground coffee pieces between his teeth, so he preferred instant. Instant was the fi rst coffee I tried. I remember I did it because I needed to stay up late to study. It was the last year of high school and I was 18.

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