Bartenders, Drink

Gabriel Navarro, coffee quality control

House Four meets the former Soho House Toronto barista, now in charge Coffee Quality Control for the East Coast of North America

“My job title might look a bit long on a business card, but I’m here to make sure that the East Coast is on the same page coffee-wise, get everyone trained so that the coffee tastes fantastic in all our sites,” says Gabriel Navarro. “I also take care of the equipment and I’ll be working very close to Chris Hudnall, the North American bar manager, to make the flow of service go as smoothly as possible.”

What do you love about coffee?
I love the craft of it, you can take the same kind of beans and depending on the process the coffee will taste different. Chemex is my favourite.

What was your first job?
My first job in coffee was at a small espresso bar in Toronto called Thor Espresso Bar. This place is still one of the best in the city. I got trained by the owner himself and at that they had one of the most expensive espresso machines in the world, The Slayer. It was completely manual, so if the coffee tasted bad it was human error. Thanks to them and all their training I was offered a job at another espresso bar as a manager, that encouraged me to keep on going.

What’s your current favourite coffee?
At the moment I’ve been drinking a lot of Nano Challa from Ethiopia, the roaster is Workshop Coffee Co. On my last work trip to the UK I had to purchase another piece of luggage because I was 11lb over and it was all coffee.

What cafes or bars do you love at the moment?
Boxcar Social is one of my favourites, this shop doesn’t have any contract with a roaster in particular so they rotate a lot and you can try a different roaster from around the world every day.

Best moment of your career to date?
The time I was in Mexico and I had the chance to pick my own cherries (before being roasted, coffee beans need to be picked off cherry bushes; it gets peeled and then started for roasting). I was able to pick the skin off, watch the roasting process, grind them and then drink my own cup. It was quite special.

And the biggest challenge you’ve faced?
Trying to convince people to drink speciality coffee and justifying the price for such a good cup of Joe.

Where do you get your tips?

What advice would you give to a barista just starting out? ​
Always serve a coffee you would drink. If you have doubts about it, make it again – never serve something you wouldn’t drink.

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