This week, Erdem Özmen is sharing his coffee story with us; “to prove that there is nothing wrong with being a barista”. Originally becoming a barista as a part-time job, Erdem Özmen left that Turkish cafe knowing “This is it. This is what I want to do.”
Erdem Özmen has always loved coffee, from dreaming about purchasing his first grinder at age 17 to now working tirelessly to change people’s perceptions of a barista’s role. One of his favourite parts of Turkey’s unique coffee culture is offering guests a cup and learning more about people through the way they customise their cup.
“I always ask what sugar level they want in it, ‘Sade, or Orta?’, which is either pure black or a small amount”.
This is his way of making those he loves and respects proud of him, and it is something he is thankful that he is able to do at work too.
Training himself and working his way up, Erdem Özmen now faces his biggest order yet, fighting for fairer wages in an economy that has failed. With it becoming increasingly more difficult to live on such a low amount, Erdem believes that change needs to happen, and happen soon. Aiming to pave the way for others after him, his dream is “to build a real, sustainable career on coffee.”, a tall order in Turkey’s difficult economic climate. However, his passion for coffee and his self-claimed ‘perfectionism’ give him a good chance to achieve his dreams. As he even said himself;
“ Always aim for better, and always fight for it too”
Part of his love for the caffeine scene comes from the customers that he serves every day; “It never gets boring to make countless V60 brews in the morning to help wake people up. I feel like I’m helping them to start their day in a better way!” The reputation he is building with his community, he hopes will help him in his future plans to enter coffee competitions. “I’m planning to attend SCA Barista Championships, but first I want to be ‘that coffee guy’ that helps everyone.” His friendly approach to serving coffee has also helped him make good friendships, he always loves meeting new people through coffee.
Through the pandemic, Erdem knows people have missed the personal touch that a barista brings to the morning coffee ritual. “People like watching their coffee being brewed professionally”, it was a struggle for many to have coffee as not many have the equipment needed. “I know some people got into home-brewing”, but Erdem remembers when people began coming back to the cafe, and how they told him they missed it.
For many, a barista’s role is more than just a server, they are community members, sources of knowledge and information, and for some, they are even friends that share the same love of coffee.
Erdem has also noticed that from people missing out for so long, they are now generally more experimental with their coffee. “People want to try new specialty coffee now!”, and only baristas know how to do these complex and fun drinks. This opportunity for new experiences and flavours can only be made possible with the help of a barista, willing to try making something new.
Everyone is coming out of the pandemic changed, and Erdem Özmen always tries to remember this; “I heard a saying years ago, ‘Always be kind because everyone you see is having a fight you know nothing about’.” It is Erdem’s compassion and empathy for his community that has helped him personally overcome this pandemic, he has found his way to help people through making them coffee, and his work is vital to those who see him everyday for their morning fix. However, he knows that while this is the case for most baristas, they are often typically overlooked for their work. We here at ‘I’M NOT A BARISTA’, share Erdem story to show how much of an impact baristas have, and to campaign for better salaries in the coffee industry. Erdem himself has tried to make himself a barista that could be expendable; “I’ve always tried to work on the salaries of the people I work with.”
If you liked Erdem Özmen’s coffee story, you can follow and support him on his Instagram here: @erdem0zmen