MILANO, Vista Darsena, Italy – Tim Varney (PICTURED in the middle) is an expert of the specialty coffee industry. His knowledge focuses on quality, roasting and coffee bar management. He’s mostly noted as the longtime second in command at Oslo’s Tim Wendelbo.
He spent six years at Oslo, working for them and two years at The Tate Modern in London. He has worked also as head of quality and as green coffeebuyer with Small Batch Roasting Co. in Melbourne.
Tim has been also consultant capacity with Handsome Coffee Roasters in Los Angeles, with The Barn in Berlin and with the Square One, again in Melbourne.
He’s here, in the chief town of Lombardy, to assist the italian final of the World Aeropress Championship. He’s hosted by The Marzocco, the italian coffee machines builder.
A question by a new AeroPress consumer. Can you tell me how did you approach this world? Can you tell me your history with AeroPress?
“I think I was probably similar to you. Cause in Australia, where i’m from, we drank only espresso. So, when I left Australia, I moved to London, I’ve never drink filtered coffee before. And when I talk about filtered coffee I mean V60, AeroPress, traditional filtered brewers. So It wasnt’ until I moved to Oslo, in Northway, that I tried my first proper specialty filtered coffe and from that moment I realized that I didn’t know half for coffee was about. I only kenw coffee as Espresso.
We are really fortunate in Australia, because in the fifties and sixties there were many many italian immigrants that came to Melbourne, in the city with the Expresso machines”.
It’s still a current situation, isn’t it?
“Yes it’s still very prevalent. I’ve many italian-australian friends. So, my background was probably very similiar to a lot of italians and I only drank Espresso. But, when I moved to Northway, I realised how much more i prefer a well made filtered coffee, because I feel that with the filtered coffee rapresents the origins and the variety of the coffee in a much better way than Espresso can”.
And so you discovered the AeroPress. You’ve become a real australian and less an italian espresso consumer, immediately?
“When AeroPress (invented in 2005 by Aerobie president Alan Adler; editor’s note) came to the mercat in about last 2005 first 2006, we didnt’ know how to brew with it. There where the instructions in the box, but they seem so strange.
That’s when we decided to have a very informal World AeroPress Championship. The very first time was in 2008 and it was between three people: it was more like a tasting session more than everything else and it was only for fun, that we called it “The World AeroPress Championship”. And the hope was to find out how to brew, ho to do the best you could with an AeroPress. And that’s how it started”.
I’ve never tasted the AeroPress coffee, I’ve only seen many videos. From the point of view of a typical italian coffee consumer, it really looks like the american version. Could you define this type of coffee as the american coffee evolution? Can you see Starbuck selling AeroPress coffee?
“Yes. I guess that, when americans started to make filtered coffee, the background was made on these big machines. The coffee wasn’t very good and it was more a commodity rather than a specialty drink.
There was no attention to where the coffee comes from, how it was roasted, nobody really cared about the potential and the complexity, the different aromas. I think tha everybody in the world, if they’re asked, can name three different grape varieties, at least.
But with coffee, no many people can answer to the same question. So I think that the thing with AeroPress is that you are able to control how you brew. You are able to make coffee shine.
You can make the coffee do the talking. I love filtered coffee because it’s a lot more delicate, the flavour is a lot cleaner, it’s not heavy and bitter like espresso can be. You can drink a lot more of it. And so, for coffees from Africa, from Kenja or Panama, which are very aromated and fruity. Those coffee do really well when they’re brewed with areopress or V60. You are experiencing in a very different way”.
So you are saing that the AeroPress coffee is different from a classic filtered one?
“You know, for a lot of people, when they find for the first time filtered coffee, they think that is very watery and not strong enough. But they’re often not speaking up on a really settled nuances of filtered coffee”.
What is your favorite AeroPress recipe? For example, it changes also from the filter you choose: paper filter, metal filter or the peek new one?
“I prefer the paper filter. The original is the best. AeroPress Championship is now in about sixtie different countries, with about 120 events. And so you see so many tecniques. But one thing that does thing to happen is this paper filter: It does a lot better than metal filter. The taste is better. That’s my opinion”.
A last curiosity again from a new italian coffee lover: do you drink the coffee with or without sugar?
“I tend not to make sugar in my coffee. I’m a purist. I don’t have problems with people that put sugar in their coffee. It’s like with the food: some people like it more salty or more pepery. I think that a very high quality coffe doesn’t need sugar. I’ts true especially with the Espresso: it shouldn’t be bitter, but when it is, you have to balance the switness with sugar. The coffee withouth sugar is the very Holy Graal. It’s the harder thing to find”.
So the real challenge is to make me drink coffee without sugar?
“Yes. Than I think that most people that I know that put sugar in their coffee: they slowly remove it. And they get to the point when they realise that they don’t need it”.
And so it is the real origin of the World AeroPress Championship: an history about fun and passion. Thanks to Tim Varney for his kindness: he finally get me my first AeroPress coffee. And it was good. Without the sugar.