Coffee king | Jellis Craig

October 07, 2016

Coffee king

Bawa 4

Meet Erwin Chandra from Hawthorn's Bawa Café

How long have you been making coffee?

I have been making coffee seriously for around four years now. I have been at Bawa Café since it opened in October 2015.

What is it about Bawa Café’s coffee that keeps customers coming back?

My aim as the head barista is for our coffee to be on the sweeter, more fruity side. I encourage customers to not take sugar and many of our regulars have now cut sugar out of their daily coffee. While coffee is considered a bitter beverage, the technique we use at Bawa Café creates a sweeter, more ‘chocolatey’ result. We have a lot of customers who prefer our coffee now. I think that’s proof of our approach.


Bawa Café, located on Burwood Road in Hawthorn

How did you become a barista?

I first learnt to make coffee during my hospitality management studies, but since then I have worked with and learnt from some very talented baristas. I initially worked in a hotel but I wanted a bit something more laid back and with more customer interaction – I thought a cafe would be perfect. I started at a small café in Brighton then got a job at Duke’s Coffee, before joining Bawa Café.

What is your secret to making a really great coffee?

For me, making great coffee is all about consistency. From one cup to the next it has to be the same. I think that’s the real secret, and it can be challenging because everyone applies a slightly different touch to their coffee-making. At Bawa Café we try to eliminate any human error behind the machine so every coffee is the same high standard and quality.

What makes a great barista?

I think 75 per cent of the role is your skill behind the machine, but 25 per cent is social. Baristas should know their customers’ names and coffee orders, but at the end of the day the reason people visit a café is for the coffee, so making consistently fantastic coffee should always be a barista’s number one priority.

What coffee do you drink yourself?

My first coffee of the day is a strong flat white early in the morning and I back that up with a double espresso. I might have another coffee during my shift, to check the quality and the taste. My favourite coffees come from North Africa, in particular Ethiopia and Kenya.

Are you seeing any coffee trends at the moment? What about the ‘golden latte’?

Personally, I’m not a fan of coffee trends. Coffee should be drunk as it has been for hundreds of years. It’s fine to add milk but I don’t think soy or almond milk, or flavours like turmeric for example, work well with coffee. I understand that people like to invent something different which is fine by me but I like my coffee the old school way.

What do you love about being a barista?

Seeing people come in during the morning, just as they’ve just started their day. I also love the interaction with customers. Working in cafes I’ve met many people who have gone from being customers to being friends and I really value that.

How do you manage the really busy times in the café?

During peak periods my philosophy is simple: I just put my head down and do the best I can!

Bawa 2