Touhidun Nahar flew to Australia in July with a student visa to do a Master's in food manufacturing from the University of Technologies, Sydney. Before she embarked on the journey, she managed to squeeze in time to do a special course on making coffees. She is now a certified barista.
Touhidun now knows how to froth a cup of cappuccino, the right mix of espresso and milk froth in a latte. She knows how to make that famous milky white heart shape on a cup of coffee.
"There is a vibrant coffee scene in Sydney and the demand for baristas is high. So, before flying there, I took a seven-day professional course on coffee making so it would help me get a part-time job there. I want to earn some while continuing with my studies."
While Touhida is learning to make coffee for a part-time job, Md Shakile, a migrant worker, learnt the skill before going to Saudi Arabia. After completing his higher secondary studies in Cumilla, Shakile wanted to go abroad to work.
"Although I had very little knowledge of coffee making in Bangladesh, I became a professional barista after working for five years in coffee shops in Saudi Arabia. However, I am still learning the art of lattes," Shakile says. In his social media videos, Shakile is often seen making white swans on brown coffee with frothed milk.
Baristas are people who are specially trained in the making and serving coffee drinks at coffee shops or cafes. Like Touhidun and Shakile, hundreds of young people in Bangladesh are now taking barista training courses to find both part-time and full-time employment abroad.
Coffee Training Solution, North End, and Beans and Berries are offering these young people training to become baristas. Each place, on average, trains around 50 to 60 people a month on how to make coffee.
Cafes and hotels also have their own training courses for their employees, but those are not open for individual coffee-enthusiasts.
Students, aspirant migrant workers main learners
Md Faruk Hossain Farhan, the founder of Coffee Training Solution Bangladesh, has been in the coffee-making business for the past 10 years. "I joined North End in 2011, where we were trained to be baristas. In 2020, I left the company and started my own coffee training centre," Farhan says.
In the last two years, Coffee Training Solution has trained more than 200 baristas, the majority of them are young students going abroad for studies and migrant workers. Every month, an average of 22-40 learners visit his centre for barista training.
Farhan says 60% of their trainees are aspirant migrant workers sent to them by the recruiting agencies. "They will learn this and be in this profession for a long time. While 30% of our trainees are students, who prefer to get a barista certificate so that they can have a part-time job abroad besides continuing their studies," he says.
A small number of grown –ups – almost 10% – also want to learn to make coffee out of their passion for the drink, almost as a hobby, Farhan adds.
Where can you learn to be a barista?
The barista training modules here in Dhaka are of three categories – basic, intermediate and professional. At Coffee Training Solution, a day-long (six hours) basic barista course teaches the basics of coffee beans, how they are roasted and ground, what kinds of beans are used for the best coffees, how to operate a coffee machine and how to measure coffee etc.
"Here in Bangladesh, we use the Arabica coffee beans for their sweeter undertone, whereas robusta beans have a bitter taste that the Bangladeshi taste buds do not prefer. A regular cup of espresso, Americano or macchiato should have 7-9 grams of ground coffee. Also, there are digital and manual coffee machines – all these are taught in the basic course," Farhan explains.
After the basics, the students are taught the art of coffee making with milk frothing (for latte, mocha, cappuccino etc), and flavouring syrups (vanilla, hazelnut, caramel, chocolate etc). According to Farhan, these syrups are mostly imported from Australia and Malaysia.
"For Latte, Mocha or Cappuccino, the ideal amount of coffee is 30ml. With that 30ml espresso, we add milk frothing depending on the size of the drink. For example, an 180ml Latte will have the usual 30ml espresso and 150ml milk frothing," Farhan explains.
And then with that basic recipe, they enhance the beverage by adding flavouring syrups.
"So after a basic latte, you can make a hazelnut latte, chocolate latte, caramel latte or even vanilla latte. When we design a coffee menu, we can add 15 different types of hot coffee beverages and then adding ice we get 15 more items but in cold versions. So, we have a complete cafe menu of 30 beverages," says Farhan.
At Coffee Training Solution, a one-day basic coffee training costs Tk3,500, and a four-day advance course costs Tk10,000. The seven-day student barista course costs Tk16,500, and the 10-day barista professional course costs Tk18,000.
North End coffee roasters also organise barista basic training sessions every month, which costs Tk5,000. You have to book a seat for the training session by sending them the fee on bKash. The session is organised in their training lab on Pragati Sarani. They get more than 20 learners every month.
"This day-long (six hours) basic session discusses the coffee beans, grinding settings on the coffee machine and how to make different types of coffee," Ruma, one of the spokespersons from North End, says.
North End has other courses on intermediate coffee learning, latte art and customised service. But unlike the basic barista course, these sessions are not organised every month. They need at least five participants to organise a session. The four-hour Intermediate course charges Tk5,000 and the three-hour Latte art course costs Tk2,000.
While these two barista trainers focus on different types of coffee, Beans and Berries has designed their barista courses with both hot and cold beverages. Trainees are taught to make coffee, iced tea, smoothies, mocktails like the virgin mojito, lemonade etc. Also, they are trained on mocktail garnishing, how to maintain and use barista tools and machinery etc.