Tuesday 27 September 2022

Gianmarco Ierardi, q-grader: “What I say to young people is get out of your comfort zone”

The Q Grader: "We have tried to make a few contacts in Italy and have also had a few job interviews as trainers, but the hiring times are extremely out of step, and the salaries are not suitable for the skills required. We have a lot of energy and drive, but in Italy we see little enthusiasm and even less trust in young people."

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MILAN – Among the young Italians who have gone abroad to grow and establish themselves professionally outside their national borders, there is also the name of Gianmarco Ierardi, barista, q-grader who, together with his partner Veronica Bella – also a coffee expert, as well as a youtuber – has travelled a bit around the world, from the UK to Melbourne where the love for the specialty burst out, and then found a new home in Germany, where they currently lives, both working as café managers. Together they also started a consultancy project dedicated to specialty and support for starting a coffee-related business, Iteist. Let’s see how they arrived at their current reality.

Ierardi from Modena to Germany: a journey of several stages

He told us: “I started working in the hospitality sector at a very young age, in fact, at 17 years old, together with other friends, we rented entire premises and organised events for 300 to 600 people, taking care of every single detail.

At the age of 22, from the beginning of 2013 until mid-2015, I moved to London to learn English, working as a dishwasher for more than a year and I must say I was very good at it – Ierardi jokes -I continued in the industry, slowly progressing by occupying different roles. That’s where I met Veronica and we haven’t been apart since, in fact: in 2015 we moved to Melbourne, where we initially worked as waiters in many places, including specialty coffee shops, and so we soon realised that the whole restaurant industry in those places had a lot going for it. It was during this period that we became passionate about the coffee world.”

“To be able to get into top specialty coffee shops, as baristas, you have to have an extremely solid base, as the competition and standards are very high.”

Ierardi and Bella together around coffee (photo provided)

“So we went back to Italy where we bought a coffee machine and for two months we practised and studied all the material we could find online and on YouTube. We returned to Melbourne and after a few rejections we finally got jobs as baristas. In our first job, we were doing 15 to 18Kg a day with each weighed shot: this allowed us to make a considerable leap in quality in a short time. Having St.Ali as our coffee supplier, we had the opportunity to attend many free courses delivered by their own ‘head trainers’ and so it was the same for other coffee shops in which we worked. ”

Ierardi: “Coffee had become our greatest passion and obsession”

“In 2017 alone we attended more than 80 events, following public cuppings, sensory trainings, brewing methods, latte art, roasting and much more. I always worked for two roasteries/cafes simultaneously 7 days a week and we trained in numerous specialty coffee shops in our 5 Australian years, becoming head baristas and then cafè managers. Veronica was able to specialise as a roaster, mainly due to our organisational skills, work ethic and constant commitment.”

Chapter Q grader

“It was a personal challenge to see how far our knowledge and skills had come. We are very detail-oriented, so we did a lot of training. Out of two classes of about 40 people, only three of us passed, me, Veronica and Alex from Rumble coffee roasters. We remember it as one of the most intense, stressful, exciting but also rewarding weeks of our lives.”

The ‘Iteist’ project

Ierardi explains: “(teist is spelled ‘taste’ in English) It was born and developed during my academic year at the ‘insight Academy of entrepreneurship & innovation’ attended in Melbourne, where I graduated in business. It was born out of a desire to share and disseminate the subject of coffee, with the aim of helping individuals and businesses increase their value, through courses, consultancy and the creation of promotional content for social platforms.”

Have you thought about coming back to Italy, or does your professionalism have better growth prospects in Germany?

“We have tried to make a few contacts in Italy and have also had a few job interviews as trainers, but the hiring times are extremely out of step, and the salaries are not suitable for the skills required. We have a lot of energy and drive, but in Italy we see little enthusiasm and even less trust in young people. Germany, even if only through a contact, was open and those who hired us both just believed in us, even though we were still at a distance both through a video call. ”

Ierardi, what is the specialty scene like there? Dynamic?

“We work for a roasting company based in Cologne, as café managers in the new Bonn store. The initial impact was quite traumatic, coming from a city, Melbourne, with hundreds of specialty shops, industry friends and daily events, to a very different and more contained reality. However, the job gives us a lot of satisfaction and we have the opportunity, managing a team of about 15 to 20 people, to increase our skills in the coordination of human relations, one of the most complicated aspects when running a business.

We work with very well-defined work systems that give us the opportunity to effectively ‘teach’ people with little experience in the field, while maintaining high volumes and standards.”

Ierardi, what do we find in your establishment? What coffees do you serve, in what extractions, at what price? What equipment?

From left to right these are the machines at our disposal:
-‘Bunn’ batch brewer for filter coffee
– EK 43
– Eureka Mignon (decaf)
– Mythos 1 (single origin)
– Mythos 1 (Blend)
– Puqpress
– Quinspin’ portafilter cleaner coming soon
– Kees van der Westen in 3 groups
The standard menu:
– Espresso 2/3.5€ depending on the type of coffee chosen and whether single or double (we do not use single spout portafilters anyway)
– Cappuccino 2.8€
– Flatwhite 3.4€
– Batch brew 2/3€

We have several single origins, Ethiopia, Honduras, Brazil, India, Panama. Cakes, granola and much more homemade, including vegan ice cream. We also offer a full ‘brunch’ menu. We have about 280 seats, so it’s quite a big place. We are a relatively new and rapidly expanding business. The Cologne store was born in the summer of 2018, and the Bonn café will turn one year old soon.” (The Cologne store also has a roastery/roastery while the Bonn store is only a café).”

And what are your next plans?

“Our future plans are to find serenity in a place where private life and work are in harmony. We want to continue to grow and test ourselves, we feel that we still have a lot to give and challenges charge us and push us to improve, even though they are so scary. Speaking of fear: I would like to be able to overcome it by entering coffee competitions. In our heads we still have the idea of opening our own roastery and coffee shop. We would like to go back to Italy but it scares us a lot.”

What would you say to young people who want to do your job and push quality?

Ierardi concludes: “To young people today, I would say to talk more often with adults, who have a lot to tell. I would tell them to get out of their comfort zone. I would say to believe in the process, to enjoy it, to look at the long term by setting small goals in the short term. To travel, to be curious, to think little and do more. I would say not to listen to those who say they know everything but, on the contrary, to listen to everyone. To fill one’s baggage with as much experience as possible. I would say to try to compare ourselves with people who inspire us and from whom we could learn.

I would say to learn as early as possible to accept defeats and take advantage of them. Some things I wish I had known earlier, some are life lessons and some I am still working on.”

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