photo courtesy James Hoffmann

I’ve been wanting to interview Croatian barista Nik Orosi ever since reading an inspiring email he wrote to “Crazy Dan Master” Griffin last winter, outlining his diabolical yet inspired plan to dominate the World Barista Competition with plasma TV screens and a universalizing cry that “all barista breath the same air”. So true! Here’s a little email sit-down with Nik, then, as he prepares to represent Croatia in Copenhagen this coming June — hopefully the first of a few interviews twitchy can provide with WBC competitors leading up to the event. I edited Nik’s answers only a bit…

What is coffee culture like in Croatia?

Even we (Croatians) are known for coffee since the begining of preparation (on east side was Turkish empire and traditional way of making coffee, history was hard for us all here around, on west side was Italian way of bringing coffee beans to a cup) we still dont have high quality of coffee beverages. Coffee is everywhere and to live without coffee is just impossible, here is a saying; Lets go for a cup of coffee, which means literally all; lets have a talk, lets fall in love, lets do basically everything in life. For all that, I’m actually so sad to see bad coffee almost everywhere…but who am I to tell what’s right and what’s wrong?

Do you feel connected to a coffee community within your own country? What about outside of your country? Do people in your city think you’re a weirdo?

Youv been here or??? Hahaha…Yes, people do think that im a weirdo, i have in my shop Faema E61, La Marzocco GB5 with portaflon portafilters and barista lights, three Mahlkonig’s k30, one Ditting etc etc, still, I’m the only non-smoking bar in the whole country, also, no alcohol, no brands, no logos, so just coffee…imagine to win anything or have friends in that surrounding.

What is more weird is that every single barista in Croatia belongs (what a word!!!) yes, belongs to some big Italian blend, so you wont find that Illy people are talking to me, or Lavazza is asking for my help, or that Segafredo is sitting next to other coffee brand….so strange and I dont want to belong there, that’s why all my coffee friends are abroad, somewhere else, not here…except two, my coworker that I’m already training for next championship and my friend from India that lives in Croatia…just before I won for the second time, my caffe was chosen for the best one in whole country, results; more gossips. Only who I care of are my regular customers.

What has the competition experience been like for you? How many people competed in Croatia this year?

I just love to compete, I’m a child still even though I’m 37 in August. I love to share with other competitors and I love to see faces of my customers that are proud cos of my win…This year was 15 of us in semifinals, some were better, some were there just because someone was paying for that…silly…To be honest, there were Willy Hansen, James Hoffmann and Anette Moldvaer and I was so happy because I couldnt breath normally when with them, I was so proud of knowing them…they are my heroes, and Tim Wendelboe, my own personal Jesus.

WBC in Tokyo was the best thing ever happened to me after my kids, so much energy, I went there, and as I say, I’ve found my family…Jay, John, James, everyone…to tell you the truth, I won just to be with them all again. Other competitors at national didnt have a single chance, my will to see them again was something that others couldnt understand…

You’re off to Copenhagen. But don’t you have some unusual ideas for your WBC routine? (Uh, plasma TVs, big performance, etc.?)

When I’m competing, I want to make a performance and not to talk how I’m passionate about coffee etc as everyone does cos, if you are not passionate, you wont be here, so why all this talk about you, me, your blend…why the judges are listening to that, after all, they’re supposed to know all that.

I’m an architect, I was also listening to Pet Shop Boys and Depeche Mode and they both were into performance when on the stage and visually different. In Tokyo I was playing with it all but silent, so just very few saw what I wanted to show actually, this time, i was making plasma TV for each judge with as many informations I can put in 15min, like on MTV, numerous pictures and words…just last week I stoped that cos, honestly, I’m using Tim Wendelboe’s espresso and TV cannot be in favor or with that much power at the stage opposite to his coffee, so I said, first Tim, then my crazy games. My judges table will be different in every way, no plasmas but….boxes, less is more, each judge will have a box in front, all what is needed will be incorporated in that box, so no spoons, sugar, napkins on the table…its all in white, i wont tell you all but will all finish in red as my honor to our host and their flag, similar to Tokyo story but way better…magic maybe, I was always a fan of Darth Vader…the force is with you young Skywalker…


What would you change about barista competitions if you could?

Performance. To see how they are dressed usually, what they listening to, copy-paste their bars in front of judges and other people. To be yourself, not learned speech for judges. We don’t need barista robots, but barista humans. Also, for me signature drink is nothing cos most of the barista are not using that in daily life or in their shops so its all a lie and I hate pretending ….maybe I’m wrong? Not for the first time but its me, I’m not taking points from this, it’s from my heart.

What would you change about the current movement in coffee if you could? Either globally or locally?

If I could but I cannot. What bothers me is peoples beliving in brand, not in barista. Most of the people have tendency to belong to someone, to be or to feel power with the sign, can be Armani or Aston Martin, maybe yes but Starbucks???? What the ….??? Costa is opening their shop just 20 meters from my shop. Hm, fear, no way! What to change, at least, I pray for poor people at coffee farms, so sad to see Ethiopians….there is no day that I dont shed a tear for them, their kids are having no school, no toys, no food….I have two kids and it’s all so disturbing to me. We have to do something, and we can…so let’s move. As for here, I’ll kick some importers of coffee out, it’s not all about money, but they just don’t understand…how much I can tell about them all but…strangely, it’s the same with some brands everywhere, UK or Croatia, they are just in love with themselves and all they can say is; we have the best brand.

Does your family understand coffee and your role in it?

Thank God, my wife is always with me wherever I go, she is my team. My two kids are too small to understand, they just like me winning so they can tell other kids that their dad is a champ and be meaningful. Hahaha… I actually enjoy in that listening how kids are fighting whose father is better….so all are doctors or politicians, and my son is saying; my dad is a champion in coffee making!!?? You look at other people’s faces asking whats that?? Strangely but pure joy!!!

Who is going to win the WBC this year?

Who? I’d like to make a change and after semifinals to give to all champions a trophy as a World Barista Champion. No finals, no tears…cos we all deserve it and I think it will be great.

Australia, Ireland, USA,Denmark, Norway, New Zealand… I know them and their ability… whoever wins will be by a point or two, there are so many great baristas and the world barista community is making huge steps. What I’d like to see is some kind of top class competition, competition between world champions till now, and I’m sure that Tim will win but this will be for humanitarian cause, not for whos the best. This Tim is so good, his skills and knowledge are big as he is as a person.

Does Croatia want to fly me over to cover the competition?

Next year I’ll be a tech judge and on a committee so you are more than welcome to Croatia…keep in touch about it…

Anything else you want to say on this or any subject while you have our attention?

Most of the coffee is sold as commodity, for me and I believe in it , coffee is not a commodity but a luxury product, so let’s take our coffee and our jobs as barista as luxury. Give all of us in every cup, give all in every sip…let’s change people’s minds about coffee from; I’m in a rush, I’ll take coffee as a take-away, throw it away, who cares, this and that…no connection whatsoever. Let’s go to basics, let’s be human first.

7 Responses to “twitchy interview no. 2: nik orosi”

  1. bz

    barista lights?

  2. willy

    Hi Nik, my genuine barista.

    I’ll put my money on you.

    ciao willy

  3. robert jakovi

    life, whatever we chose to be, without passion doesn’t worth of human living

    we are supposed to unit existence and essence, hart and mind, emotions and thoughts …

    only then black coffe smells and tastes genuinely


  4. dan griffin

    that last part is solid gold! well said Nik!

  5. goran wilhelm

    Nik , sretno u Kopenhagenu !
    Svaka kava kod Tebe je dozivljaj i uzitak . Samo nastavi – da je bar puno vise tak pravih kao sto si Ti . Goran

  6. gabriele

    I’m italian, and I’m always (upset?) to see how abroad there are just the three usual brands of coffee: Lavazza, Illy and Segafredo.
    In Italy they cover only 13% of the HORECA market but abroad we can find just them, while we know there are a lot of very good smaller companies.
    Do you think, at least in Croatian market, that is just of marketing matter? Which system do you think could help the small and high quality italian companies to enter the market?

  7. nik orosi

    first,non of the 3 brands we are mentioning here i don’t find as a good brands in terms of coffee. they were but not anymore.
    second,you ask me for the system and ill tell you, you need to be honest, not to cheat! only then…
    the meaning, i was using coffee from napoli at some point, on the beginning of our business was everything fine, in one month diff blend!! in two months just crap, so i went to north italia, just the same, first 100% arabica, in a month 3% robusta and after that more and more…
    i really do belive in quality coffee in italia but im just tired of games that ‘they’ (some italians) play so im roasting all the way up in norway. they dont cheat…
    please contact me…

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