photos stolen from James Hoffmann, as per usual

I first met Stephen Morrissey when he steamrolled through Toronto last fall, spilling Black Cat and Irish curses all over Manic Coffee. Morrissey recently won the Irish Barista Championship, and is will be competing in the WBC in a couple of weeks hoping to remove the little paper crown from his business partner James Hoffmann and parade around in it all year himself.

What is coffee culture like in Ireland?
Not too pretty. It’s dominated by a cafe culture rather than a coffee culture, where people are familiar with the concept of a cafe and consider themselves cosmopolitan because they’re somewhat familiar with terms like cappuccino and macchiato. What doesn’t exist is an awareness of coffee’s more significant elements, like seasonality, brewing complexities and regional or varietal differences. I suppose the problem is universal, where many of the bigger companies who dominate the Irish coffee market tend to use the same vocabulary to promote their coffee that we would, thus making it more difficult to fight our corner. In saying that, Ireland is probably the same as most other countries, in that the percentage of cafes doing a good job is only about 1 or 2%. So while the States may have 100 or so quality-focused cafes, Ireland, with its population of just over four million, may only have around three.

How do you get away with competing for Ireland even though you have actually moved to London?
I was living in Ireland when I competed in all the competitions, and only moved over here properly in the last couple of weeks. Interestingly, I just found out yesterday that I can only ever compete in Ireland now, even if I lived in Manila the rest of my life. I’m still not sure how I feel about that, whether its a good or bad thing.

Why is that? Isn’t that going to piss off all the other baristas in Manila?
Are baristas legal in Manila? I wonder if they tap or not.

I always think its funny how much effort is need to win the Irish in comparison to that needed to win the US, and then how both competitors go in on equal footing in the WBC. Not to downplay the skill level of Irish baristas, or how much work I put into it, but I only had to do it twice, with around thirty other people, as opposed to the five rounds Mr. Glanville had to do and the hundreds of other competitors who threw their hats in the ring. So I suppose it might have been nice to compete in another country but I’m sure as Ireland continues to improve, we’ll see more competitors, more regionals and more significance to winning the Irish in Ireland.

(As opposed to winning the Irish in Manila, presumably.)

Where were you working in coffee in Dublin, and how does that coffee community differ from what you’ll be joining in London?
I started off in a cafe called Rio Coffee Co, my brother trained me to do latte art in an afternoon seeing around 50 cappuccinos thrown down a sink, and after a year or two there, I went to work for the coffee supplier of that cafe, Bewley’s Coffee Co Ltd. They dominate the Irish market, roasting around 50 or 60 tonnes a week, and were the first to bring coffee and tea into Ireland in the early 1800s. They were the first to expose me to the Cup of Excellence and their training lab is still one of the best I’ve seen. I became a trainer for them and looked after quality control in their main cafe on Dublin’s Grafton street alongside everyone’s famous Pigot, Deaton, now of Intelligentsia LA. This cafe had 6 fb70s, a 5 kilo probat, and around 35 baristas working throughout its four floors and I feel Deaton and I were able to foster a culture of good brewing that has lasted since we left. It’s definitely worth checking out for anyone traveling to Dublin.

With Square Mile, it was the opportunity to go further that appealed. Beyond the obvious appeal or working with two close friends, who I’ve just learnt a silly amount from in the last while, also I’m able to work with really interesting coffees, brew them on really exciting machines, and sell them to really nice, and serious coffee people.

Regarding community, subcultures struggle to develop in Ireland, especially Dublin, which is not the case in the UK. There’s a real sense that the barista culture is bubbling away here, and hopefully Square Mile can help facilitate the development of that. How does a little branded badge sound?

What’s your role within Square Mile? Are all three of you roasting, or are you there just to look pretty?
I’m glad you mentioned my looks, as they are so central to everything I do, both in my work and social capacities. A lot of my day is spent standing around allowing others to admire me, although by others you have to take into account inanimate objects like Synessos and the odd Chemex. This commitment, and a poor olfactory system means I don’t do any roasting, and neither does James, whose reasons are even more intriguing than mine. Anette is our director of coffee, our master roaster and the person who slaps James and I when we get too goofy.


What has the competition experience been like for you? How many people competed in Ireland this year?
Do you mean just this year’s competition or my experience of them as a judge, competitor and trainer? You can’t reply because this is an e mail interview, but I’ll presume you meant all three. I know there are flaws in the competition, but if you look at it as a goal to raising coffee quality, and not a chance a platform for glorification, then I think it’s great. For me it presents a set of standards that if all the cafes in the world went by, we’d be drinking a lot more tasty coffee.

I’ve enjoyed competing, coaching and judging, and after Copenhagen, I look forward to help how I can organising them. They are stressful, expensive to compete in, but if you do compete, it will make you a better barista, without question.

What would you change about barista competitions if you could?
The scoring system. If I serve an acceptable espresso on the world stage, I’ll get a 1. What nonsense.

What would you change about the current movement in coffee if you could? Either globally or locally?
Less egos on some people, and less humility from others, cleaner Indonesians, less chili & chocolate sig drinks, more blogs of better content, more tattoos, but never on me, and more facial and back hair. Oo, and more innovation in machinery.

Does your family understand coffee and your role in it?
No, which they’ll regret. My mother will want me to mention her; Geraldine.

It’s going to be fun to depose James, isn’t it?
Not sure if I’ll get the pleasure, but someone will, and no doubt it’ll be fun for them.

How come you’re such a cheeky bastard?
fuck off.

5 Responses to “twitchy interview no. 3: stephen morrissey”

  1. nik orosi

    You are great!!!
    im betting on you as a next world champion, or in latte or in cuoping or as a barista…
    Your humor is over the top!!!
    F… o..!!! for the last answer!!!!

    just great

  2. nik orosi

    im keep reading this over and over….monty python kind a humor…
    p1. what do you do when on vacation?
    p2. well, i play golf, read books and masturbate a lot…
    p1. hm, you did surprise me with your answer, i mean, golf is not so popular around here

  3. Twitchy » Blog Archive » twitchy interview no. 4: kyle glanville

    […] has launched him on a jet plane to Copenhagen, Denmark this week, where he’ll compete against Stephen Morrissey, who he has trained with, to depose James Hoffmann, who Stephen has trained with, as the World […]

  4. dan griffin

    i had no idea stephen was a bastard!

  5. Twitchy » Blog Archive » last night’s party dot org

    […] loyalties were with those whom we knew personally — Mike Yung, Canadian Barista Champion, and Stephen Morrissey, Irish champ now residing in I believe Manila — and we laid in supplies for the party in hopes to […]

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