Episode 3: Irina Blank

 Irina in competition

Irina in competition

Earlier this year I became acquainted with a number of lovely people from Double B Coffee and Tea, the chief purveyor of specialty coffee in Russia, and later got to visit their two stores in Prague, where I made some new friends. But the first was Irina Blank, from Moscow who I met at a coffee colab, a space where we share new information and trends and learning within our industry. From the first moment, Irina was warm and friendly as she introduced herself to the other baristas and enthusiasts attending the event. For that reason, I asked her to be a part of barista stories and share her story with us. Here is her story:

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I used to hate coffee. A long time ago I thought it was a bitter watery disgusting thing, that people drank and I had no idea why. Until the sad high school times when I lost my only friend; we changed schools and lost communication for some reason. He was like a little brother to me. And he was a strong coffee lover, mostly because of Starbucks’ appearance in Moscow in 2007. New and unusual, the romantic atmosphere of the coffee store instantly become viral and on the high top of popularity among the young, it was the same for him, and he even began taking photos with the named paper cups. I saw and knew that but didn’t share his passion for this product.

 Colab Berlin, a social learning event for the coffee industry.

Colab Berlin, a social learning event for the coffee industry.

At some point I’ve started to miss him a lot. One day, I was passing by Starbucks, one of the first two locations here, and decided: “at least a cup of coffee will follow me, if not him”. I knew nothing about coffee. So, I just asked “a regular one” and ended up with a cup of a black filter coffee. First, I was surprised. “Ok then”. Second, I was shocked. It was a delightful aroma of chocolate, hints of nuts and something sweet and charming in that cup of coffee. I simply couldn’t believe that. Before this, coffee was never even palatable for me, but that coffee was… good. It’s dark brown color was reminding me the color of my friend’s eyes. I felt warm from inside. It was exactly what I was lacking. Of course, it didn’t become the best coffee in my life. But it was like the love at first sight. And it has changed everything. Later that year I’ve started to work as a barista and now years later I am a barista-trainer and an AST assistant here, in Double B Coffee & Tea, the best Specialty Coffee company in Russia.

 

Even though I have different responsibilities currently, being a barista behind the bar was, is and always will be my favorite thing to do. It’s not just amazing and insanely tasty coffee itself or super expensive fancy equipment, it’s not just the story behind every cup, but it’s a direct link to people’s emotion and a way to create a new story every day, which probably will be remembered in someone else’s life. It’s like you play a role in a TV series and your role is episodic yet it determines the whole plot of the episode. And you can ruin or create it straight from nothing!

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How many times I’ve had (and pretty sure we’ve all had) a guest, who had entered a café completely lost and dead and just in couple of minutes he went back to the life. Is not that bad? How a simple smile from a barista can change everything? How customers become regulars and sometimes friends, how they feel themselves at home and safe. That’s what it’s all about. Just to be a human and to be there for people makes me truly happy.

 

Irina can be found at Double B Coffee and Tea in Moscow, and as a trainer, you may be even lucky enough to get a class with her, learning the fundamentals of coffee.

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