Coffee educator changes coffee scene in the USBy Chit U. Juan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
It used to be that coffee just meant a cup of brown liquid poured into your mug, ad libitum while eating your California breakfast of fried eggs “sunnyside up” bacon and sausage or your lox and bagel if you happened to be in New York.
Then, the revolutionary ’90s came. People started looking for a rosetta latte, a macchiato or a dry cappuccino. In the early ’90s a young man was inspired by Italy’s master of espresso, Dr Illy, yes of the famed roasted coffee, dispensed in special cans that one put on top of the espresso grinder and doser—that Dr Illy.
The young man, still wet behind the ears (in his own words), with all of 3 to 4 years of experience in coffee, was anointed by Dr. Ernesto Illy (1925-2008) or “knighted” to be “the one who would change the face of coffee in America.”
Bruce Milletto started a coffee shop he named Bellissimo in Portland, Oregon part of the Northwest coffee craze which started on Pike St. in Seattle where Starbucks opened its first coffee spice and tea store. Portland and Seattle became the hotbeds to spawn a coffee revolution which saw the birth of Seattle’s Best Coffee, Caffe D’Arte and many forerunners of the specialty coffee trade in America.
“The Philippine coffee scene is such a welcome surprise for me,” the lean and dusky Oregonite says to me. Apparently, Bruce has been here once before and on this second visit was surprised to see a heightened interest in specialty coffee among Filipinos. He dropped by ECHOstore/KAPE Isla in Serendra to check out the coffee selections available in the country and to appreciate the Filipinos’ interest in drinking better quality coffee.
Here are some excerpts form our short chat about coffee:
CJ: So have you tried Philippine coffee?
BM: Yes, I think that’s what we have been using in our classes. (He and son Matt held exclusive two-day classes courtesy of Philippine Barista and Coffee Academy of Cherry Cruz).
CJ: What do you think of the Filipino barista?
BM: I think the Filipinos have a high interest in specialty coffee. You can feel their passion and excitement for learning more about specialty coffee.
CJ: What got you started in Coffee Education?
BM: In the ’80s the words “coffee” and “education” were never used together. People just drank coffee and education was far from it. Then we combined the two words to teach many people about the coffee business.
CJ: Who influenced you in choosing to be a “coffee educator”?
BM: Dr. Illy of Illy coffee fame. I met him at an SCAA show in the USA and I guess he saw potential in me (modesty aside). He told me I could change the coffee scene in America by educating people specifically on specialty coffee. The rest as they say is history.
Milletto and his contemporaries like Mario Cippola of Caffe D’Arte started conducting coffee courses in Seattle and Portland and would be responsible for the training of many baristi (plural of barista or coffee bartender) for the past 20 years or more. Bruce has since also sired a son Matt Milletto (often mistaken to be his brother) who is now the Vice President of the American Barista School and conducts courses in the USA and abroad.
Dr. Illy has passed on, but he left a student who is now the teacher. And the teacher continues to spread the word about Specialty Coffee—how to “pull” an espresso, how to make a perfect latte, how to choose your milk, how to store your beans, etc.
Yes, there are many details that go into making a cup of espresso-how many seconds it took to drip-was it 20 or 25 seconds? In making a cappuccino, how much time do you give to steaming milk so it foams well for a dry cappuccino?
So the next time you order a latte, think coffee education. Even we were educated over the years that Americano is a drink and not a person, and that latte means milk in Italian, but a ’coffee drink with steamed milk’ in America.
And in Switzerland, if you ask for an Americano, what do you think would a Swiss say? “We only have Swiss coffee!”
Ahh, the terminology increases as we go around the world drinking specialty coffee. But thanks to passionate coffee people like Bruce Milletto, we now can have a latte with basically the same look and feel whether we are in a small town in Texas or in a New York café, or at a café in Serendra!
And that is because of coffee education. Twenty years.
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