Interview: Pierre Tymms, barista and founder of SHIFT Stockholm
Barista Pierre Tymms chats great coffee, great milk and Sweden's exciting coffee scene
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From working with three baristas to serve up to 2,000 people a day in Melbourne, Australia, to heading the bar at the award-winning Cafe Pascal in Stockholm, it’s been a global journey for Pierre Tymms. The barista now runs a company called Shift Stockholm, which does coffee catering for events. He's also the founder of the Stockholm Coffee Festival – a yearly celebration of Swedish artisanal coffee roasters. Pierre chats to FoodTribe about great coffee, Sweden's artisanal coffee scene, and Sproud pea milk.
How did you get into coffee in the first place?
I really eased into coffee to be honest. First I started working in a cafe as a part-time job while I was studying at university. Then I found I got more and more interested in coffee the more I learnt about it, until I realised that I liked making coffee more than I did studying what I was studying! So I dropped out of my course in my third year and decided to take on coffee full time to see where it would take me!
What’s your perfect coffee?
This can be a bit of a loaded question for some baristas haha. For me it depends on the moment. My favourite thing to do in the morning is to make myself a V60 Pour Over coffee, and I look for fruitier coffees like Ethiopians or Kenyans. Then after lunch I definitely love a nice fresh Espresso to help me power through the afternoon slump!
What do people often get wrong about coffee?
I think that a lot of people, especially here in Sweden, have kind of just assumed that coffee has to taste dark and bitter – more of a drug to consume than something to be enjoyed. While I'm not suggesting that people go and get super nerdy about coffee, I think there's the opportunity for a shift in mentality where people choose coffee like they choose wine; based on taste rather than just alcohol content.
What's the secret to brewing great coffee?
I think my secret is to learn what variables are going to affect the taste of the coffee, and measure and control those. For example, measuring the amount of coffee and the amount of water used in a brew and keeping those two variables consistent will instantly take someone from a novice brewer to a pretty solid home barista!
How important is the artisanal coffee market in Sweden?
It's really interesting to see what role Artisanal Coffee plays in Sweden. From the outside, there are some of the best roasters in the world here in Sweden. The Scandinavians were the ones who introduced light roasted coffee to the world, so you'd expect a thriving Artisanal Coffee scene here. In reality though, the scene is pretty small and close-knit. Awareness about Artisanal Coffee is starting to grow though, which can be seen by the interest and response to the Stockholm Coffee Festival.
How has the Stockholm coffee festival grown over its first two years?
Before the Stockholm Coffee Festival – at least when I arrived in Sweden in 2017 – the biggest thing that I found lacking in the Swedish Coffee Scene was a sense of community. As the Stockholm Coffee Festival has grown and gotten more legitimate, so has the community within the coffee scene. It's also been great to see more "non-coffee" people coming to the festival this year, and meeting and learning from some of the best roasters in the world.
What is it that you like about Sproud pea milk?
What's not to love! It's cool, it's hip, it tastes great in coffee, and it steams and pours like a dream.
How does Sproud compare to dairy milk?
As a barista, the worst thing for a long time was when a customer came in and ordered a vegan cappuccino, latte, etc. The milk was always hard to steam, harder to pour, and just generally didn't do the coffee justice. It was like you had to sacrifice flavour and appearance to have a vegan milk drink. The first time I tried Sproud, I thought, "wow, this actually steams like normal milk!" Within five minutes I was pouring latte art with Sproud that I had previously only be able to pull off with dairy milk.
How would you describe the flavour of Sproud, especially when used in coffee?
One of the best things with Sproud is that it doesn't take away from the flavour of the espresso. In my experience, when I've served someone a Sproud cappuccino without telling them, a lot of the time they haven't been able to tell the difference between that and a normal cappuccino.
Is Sproud a good milk for baristas to use as a dairy alternative?
I really think it's the best dairy alternative on the market. Not only because it steams so well and tastes great in coffee, but also because it's completely free from allergens, so you can rest assured that if someone wants a cappuccino but they have allergies or intolerances, they'll be able to get a great tasting cappuccino with Sproud. In fact – it's the dairy alternative I use in my company Shift doing coffee at events.