Berlin’s coffee scene has been exploding over the last few years. It’s fantastic! So I figured it’s time to go to some favorite baristas and ask them a few questions. Starting this mini series Berlin’s Baristas today is Shawn Barber, who (along with his partner in crime Chris Onton) kindly provides me with a delicious cup of flat white just about every day.
Tell us about yourself and your shop!
My name is Shawn Barber I am co-owner of Companion Coffee. I’ve been working with coffee for 10 years. Mostly in Canada where I first learnt about coffee and went on to help various businesses open cafes or to develop their current offering. I opened Companion in January of 2013 with long time friend and collaborator Chris Onton. We shared a lot of similar ideas about coffee, service and ethics. Tired of working for places we struggled to get behind ethically we wanted to branch out to do our own thing that we could be proud of. Companion is a Berlin based coffee and tea business with a focus on quality traceability. We offer training as well as our range of directly sourced tea to other cafes, catering for events, and operate a small cafe in Kreuzberg.
Chris hard at work providing coffee for a few hundred people at UIKonf 2014.
What brought you to Berlin?
I came to Berlin years ago as a tourist and ended up sticking around to help kick start the non-existent Berlin coffee scene. With my consulting background I was offered a gig to help local a business man realize his dream of owning a cafe. Once that was over and I was back in Canada I found myself missing Berlin and it’s laid back ways. When I got an email asking if I would consider returning to put together a coffee roaster I jumped at the opportunity. Shortly after returning I left that project to do Companion.
What is your signature drink?
I don’t know if I really have a signature drink… At the Cafe we offer a rotating selection of espresso from various roasters. I think over thirty high end roasters in the last year alone. So I guess I pride myself on a well extracted espresso.
…favorite roast? I have a hard time picking a favourite roast or roaster. I will say that in the last few months Workshop from London and Square mile (also London) have been putting out some very consistent product. German based I like JB Kaffee and Five Elephant. I am also very excited about a Paris based roaster called Belleville who have been getting better and better ever since opening about ten months ago.
…favorite piece of kit? Well, I always like a good grinder. I think its the most important instrument in making good coffee. The new Nuova Simonelli grinder called Mythos 1 is brilliant.
…coffee at home? I do filter coffee at home. I use a Baratza grinder and a Hario V60 with a Bona Vita temp-controlled gooseneck kettle and naturally a set of scales.
I also drink a lot of tea at home. Something I have been really getting into the last year is quality tea. Not in a classic history based “let’s drink tea man” but in a more serious scales and thermometer sort of way. I really respect the process of tea and see it getting a lot more attention in the years to come as a culinary item.
A memorable experience with a customer?
I have to say at our shop we are very lucky to have a lot of great customers. We are not that easy to find and have a pretty limited offering. As a result most people who come do so for exactly what we do well. One great moment that pops to mind was on a consulting gig. We had helped them set up a coffee bar in their office about a month before and done a series of trainings. I went by to make a change to their grinder and ended up having one of the best espressos I’ve had all year made for me by one of the guys.
Any announcements or notes you’d like to share?
I don’t know if I really have any announcements… One thing I am really excited about is tea. We are waiting for new packaging to be designed for our tea and once it’s complete we will have six new teas on offer. These are teas I’m really pumped about and feel will mature and evolve our current offerings.
Learn more about Companion: