Andre Eiermann’s love of coffee has taken him all around the world. Now the former Swiss Barista Champion is set to call Australia home.
For the past few years, 2017 Swiss Barista Champion Andre Eiermann has barely kept his feet on the ground. In his role as a brand ambassador for the Simonelli Group, the Swiss national has travelled from Europe to the United States, Asia, and, for the first time in February 2019, Australia.
Andre tells BeanScene that the trip confirmed rumours he had heard of Australia’s reputation for quality.
“The way a normal coffee shop in Australia operates is very close to how I would work on stage for the World Barista Championship (WBC). It’s on such a high level compared to other countries, which you can really see in how they texture milk. A regular café in Melbourne textures milk much better than maybe 99 per cent of the coffee shops in Switzerland,” Andre says.
“I went to Patricia Coffee Brewers in Melbourne and there were so many people on the bar. There was one person just texturing milk and another just extracting shots. The barista measured every dose with a scale and if it was out of the specs, he’d redo the shot. I watched him for about 15 minutes, working at a WBC standard to serve a long queue during rush hour and manage it extremely well.”
Andre even took up the opportunity to experience Australian’s high standards himself, working half a day shift at Commuter Coffee on South Wharf in Melbourne.
“I wanted to see how Australians order their coffee – what they like but also how they behave. Is it what I was used to, the same people every morning who come in sleepy and not in a good mood because they haven’t had their caffeine shot? We like to call them ‘caffeine zombies’,” Andre says.
“It was an out of body experience serving Australians. They were all in a perfect mood, easy going, and super relaxed, but at the same time, so demanding on all their beverages. They knew exactly what they want.”
Andre admits that despite placing 10th in the 2017 WBC, he couldn’t keep up with the workload.
“I was freaking out behind the machine when I saw all these orders come in. There were drinks I’ve never heard of before, like a magic or three-quarter flat white. Then there were two different almond milks – one sweetened, one unsweetened – among other dairy alternatives. There were just so many beverages,” Andre says.
“It was a very good experience of how a coffee shop in Melbourne really works, and I was totally thrilled. Compared to working a shift in a busy Melbourne coffee shop, the WBC is easy.”
Andre says the biggest surprise from this experience was the proliferation of milk coffees that customers ordered.
“I expected more espresso or long black orders. There is definitely a big desire for milk beverages in Australia. I also realised there’s a strong demand for dairy alternatives,” he says. “In Switzerland, it’s very difficult to find alternative milks and it’s just expected in Australia.”
Andre will be returning to Australia in 2020, this time permanently, where he will head up the Victoria Arduino Experience Lab, aiming to open in Melbourne in March. The Experience Lab will highlight the equipment of the Victoria Arduino brand.
“It will be like a showroom where clients or interested prospects can come in and do more than just see the models,” Andre says. “It will offer the chance to work with the machines. They can extract shots, become familiar with the machines, and get a feel for what they can really do.”
Andre has had a long relationship with the Simonelli Group, having worked as the Marketing Director of its Swiss distributor since 2012. In 2015, the two companies collaborated to launch the Coffee Academy in Switzerland, which has hosted masterclasses from World Barista Champions Gwilym Davies, Fritz Storm, Hidenori Izaki, and Sasa Sestic, among others.
“Simonelli really opened up their network to me at that time to make the academy and showroom in Switzerland a great success,” Andre says. “Every time I’d visit them in Italy, it didn’t feel like a supplier/distributor relationship. For me, it’s more like being part of a family.”
After competing in the WBC, Andre’s partnership with Simonelli strengthened, taking part in the testing of the Victoria Arduino Mythos 2 grinder and Nuova Simonelli Aurelia Wave espresso machine. Promoting these machines at the 2019 Melbourne International Coffee Expo (MICE) was one reason for Andre’s trip to Australia last year. The other was to give a speech on sustainability at an Australian Coffee Traders Association dinner.
“Sustainability was a core component of the Aurelia Wave’s development, but at the time, it was not a topic where my knowledge really lay. I had to dig deep and get familiar with the subject. I also studied Australia and its different approach to sustainability,” Andre says.
“For example, when you look at Switzerland, it’s not an island. There is no sea or ocean around us, so single-use plastic is not as big a subject. But being surround by water and sea life, you can really see the damage that it causes in Australia.”
Andre says it was exciting to see the audience engage with his presentation and wanting to learn more afterwards.
“People kept coming up to me, asking so many questions. I was really thrilled to see so many people interested in how a coffee machine producer can help and work towards sustainability. Others bombarded me with questions about specialty coffee in Switzerland,” he says.
“It was like a full immersion in the coffee scene and connecting with the community felt like the most natural thing to do. Sometimes, you’ll arrive somewhere, put your foot down coming off the airplane, and you don’t need more than 10 seconds to know it just feels right. Other times, you want to go back up the staircase and fly back home.”
Though the frequent travelling can prove tiring, Andre says he’s “totally energised” once he steps in a café.
“It’s energy consuming, but once you arrive in a new country, talking and exchanging with the local specialty coffee community really gives you back so much energy,” Andre says.
“I have become a true world traveller thanks to coffee, but also because I’m just curious and eager to learn. Australia is a big country and it’s very versatile. Looking at the size of the specialty coffee market, I think it will take a good amount of time to fully emerge and learn and exchange information.”
After several years of travelling and experiencing coffee cultures all around the world, Andre hopes to bring some new ideas to the Australian coffee industry.
“One of the interesting things I’ve learned is that, especially in Asia, they have a super scientific approach to espresso extraction. In Europe, sometimes we’ll get a bag of coffee and play around with it. Once we have a great cup of coffee, we are happy and enjoy it. But in Asia, they really look into every little factor to understand how they just achieved this great shot,” Andre says.
“I really think you can get a lot of inspiration out of the Australian market, but at the same I think it’s also interesting to see what’s happening overseas and would like to bring in some of these international viewpoints.”
Andre says in a market as diverse as coffee, there is always more to learn.
“I really want to highlight what the coffee industry can do, how versatile it can be, and how important it is for the community to work together,” Andre says.
“Coffee is a great industry where you can learn on a daily basis. Even if you think that you already know a lot, you can open another door and suddenly realise there’s a new world to explore.”
This article appears in the February 2020 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.