Award winning Turkish barista, Orkun Ustel tells us how he fell into the coffee industry by happy accident.
Two-time winner of the Brewers Cup Champion of Turkey and professional barista trainer, Orkun always loved coffee. He is always experimenting and willing to learn more about coffee. To him, specialist coffee plays a unique role in the industry. “I think that specialty coffee is the most complex agricultural product that we have cultivated.”
“I prefer to define myself as a competitive coffee maker and a coffee enthusiast because I have been competing every year since I started working as a barista. I love to compete in the championship and test my limits!”
Despite his love of coffee, he never considered it a career path until he left university. He wasn’t able to complete his degree due to health complications, but while he had the time away from his studies was able to distract himself by experimenting with brewing specialist coffee at home. He found his true passion for coffee by experimenting with different brewing techniques to create unique flavour profiles. He still aims to do this with every cup of coffee he makes.
“I think that specialty coffee is the most complex agricultural product that we have cultivated.”
Representing Turkey at the SCA Brewers Cup Championship was a turning point in his coffee journey. It widened his perspective on the coffee industry, witnessing the talent of other baristas and the true potential for experimentation with coffee. After winning his first title in 2017, he endeavoured to keep expanding his coffee knowledge. Orkun took a trip to Colombia to see the very beginning of the coffee production line. This is where he learned the value of supporting sustainable coffee farming. After seeing the farms firsthand, he now passes this knowledge onto his customers.
“When I visited coffee farms it furthered my belief that there is more value in a cup of coffee than we give credit. Even though I am not a green coffee buyer now, I pay more attention to coffee farming, trying to learn more about it and teach my consumers.“
After years of working in the industry, he now trains baristas how to make the perfect brew. Since the beginning of the pandemic, face to face coffee training has not been possible, so Orkun has taken his expertise online. He now teaches people how to make excellent coffee through his instructional videos on his Youtube channel and Instagram account.
“The deterioration of the economy and the fact that the Coronavirus pandemic has also hit the food and beverage sector, has made life a lot more difficult.”
Even with his ability to adapt in a crisis, he is acutely aware of the difficulties currently facing the coffee industry, especially felt in Turkey. “The deterioration of the economy and the fact that the Coronavirus pandemic has also hit the food and beverage sector, has made life a lot more difficult.” This is something that all baristas are facing all over the world which is why he has turned his teaching talents online, connecting to coffee enthusiasts across the globe. This is an innovative way to keep doing his important work in training talented baristas and continuing to share his passion with the world.
Despite all this, he maintains a positive attitude, continuing to experiment with coffee at home. He is always learning, reading books and research papers about innovations in coffee as well as continuing to try new things himself. He encourages anyone with an interest in coffee to do the same. Whatever this year brings, he looks forward to next year where he will be competing for his next title.
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