Last week I sat down with Panther Coffee Manager Camila Ramos at Harry’s over a special pie, some meatballs, and an escarole salad to talk about our recent introduction of Panther Coffee at Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink in Miami. And what it’s like to lead the fabulous life of a barista at Wynwood’s — and Miami’s — hottest small batch coffee roaster.
Ellie Sara Groden: Logistically, what exactly did transitioning our program at the mothership entail?
Camila Ramos: Well, with two quality focused companies partnering up and trying to serve the best stuff they’ve got locally, means going through an intense training with the entire staff. We’ve reserved a barista for your busiest shift, which is brunch, so you’ll have a panther coffee barista there. You have a La Mazzer, top of the line, brand new espresso machine, and a Mazer espresso grinder, and you’ll also be showcasing a single-origin (literally meaning, this coffee comes from one specific farm, and goes even further to say that it’s one specific lot on that farm) this will rotate, but currently it’s a Nicaragua Grupo Las Cuchillas.
ESG: Is training a part of your job that you enjoy?
CR: Oh, super! Especially in Miami where specialty coffee is an emerging market, getting to show people one on one what makes our coffee different as far as barista skills is always an eye-opener for them, as far as the level of the technical skill that is involved, it’s exciting to bring them closer to the product so that they can see what it’s all about. It’s cool to be the person who helps them make that connection.
ESG: What’s your favorite country for coffee?
CR: That’s a funny question. What is my favorite country for coffee? Well, I’m going to be PC, and say that every country has something special to offer. But right now I’m into Colombian coffees, they’re really ahead of the global curve with processing techniques and micro-lots. We had a really good coffee from there this year from Finca El Ventilador that just won a Good Food Award last month. Wait, can I change my answer?
ESG: Sure, why?
CR: I hate when people say Colombian coffee is the best because it’s a marketing thing from the 80s.
ESG: Like Juan Valdez?
CR: Yea, but that’s not what it’s about, there really are reasons that make it stand out now. But I might say Ethiopia, where all coffee originally comes from.
ESG: Ok. You’re a competitive barista…what does that mean?
CR: Well there are regional, national and global competitions. I compete in the barista competition, which is very espresso focused, another Panther coffee team member, Ryan, does the Brewers Cup which is about brewing coffee. For the barista competition, competitors have 15 minutes to prepare 4 espresso, 4 cappuccino, and 4 signature drinks, for 4 sensory judges, but then you’re also getting judged by 2 technical judges and a head judge on anything from the symmetry of your latte art to the flavor balance of the espresso, to how many smudges you leave on the machine at the end.
ESG: Yea, really intense. It’s really cool, though because it gives you a chance to learn about what’s going on in the industry and pushes you further as far as learning skills under pressure. Ryan is competing for the Brewers Cup in April and I will be for Barista in Boston for Nationals, we both made it from regionals in Atlanta. How many compete? 30-40 at regionals and 6 make it to finals.
ESG: If you win in Boston where do you go?
CR: Melbourne. [Austrailia]
ESG: So, barista for life?
CR: Definitely coffee for life. I don’t know if I’ll be behind the bar for the rest of my life, but definitely involved in coffee for a very long time.
ESG: A little birdie told me you had a brief stint at MGFD…?
CR: Yea (laughs) before Panther was in Miami, I really wanted to work in a company with a high level of integrity regarding ingredient sourcing and hospitality, and I was obsessed with MGFD but bussing tables wasn’t really my thing… and it turned out to be a dream because now I get to be in coffee and spend time at Michael’s!