As the Barista Trainer at Small Batch Coffee Roasters, Max White gets to see the good, the bad and the ugly side of making coffee. From those just about to take their baby steps in the coffee industry, to those with an exceedingly high knowledge of the little bean.
Through all of this, Max has become one of Brighton’s most knowledgable baristas and decided to test his abilities at the Coffee Masters during this year’s London Coffee Festival.
The event saw 24 baristas go head-to-head, showcasing their skills across a broad range of different disciplines, with only one to be crowned champion. After the dust had settled, we caught up with Max to find out how he got on and what he enjoys most about working in the local coffee industry.
Hi Max, can you tell us about your background?
I was born and raised in Brighton but lived in Australia for brief stint after college when I was 18. I actually first trained to be a chef which I loved, although the long anti-social hours make it hard to have a life outside the kitchen. So I decided to move to coffee. Cafes have better hours and are much more social!
What is your current role and what are your responsibilities?
My current role is Barista Trainer at Small Batch Coffee Roasters. My responsibilities range from training our own staff, wholesale clients, members of the public and the SCA Coffee Skills Programme. When I’m not in our training room situated in the basement of our Seven Dials cafe I am around one of our nine locations pulling shots, checking the QC or some grinder maintenance.
What is your ethos when it comes to making and serving coffee?
My ethos is to have an “open door” to anyone and everyone. Coffee first influenced our culture by bringing people together from all sorts of backgrounds, social classes and politics. I intend to keep that same culture. I am happy to geek out and talk single origin filter or serve a latte with two sugars. As long as we are forming community then that’s what it’s all about at the end of the day!
You took part in the Coffee Masters at this year’s London Coffee Festival, how did that come about and what did it involved?
The Coffee Masters is something I felt would be a really good challenge of my abilities and a good motivation to learn new skills. I really enjoyed the competition and learned a lot from the experience.
Where did you finish and can we expect to see you taking part again next year?
I finished 13th out of 24. Solid mid-table. I would love to take part again next year, although I think I will enter the UKBC next time. I like the idea of being able to choose the coffee you work with and present it in the absolute best way you can.
What do you enjoy most about the Brighton coffee scene and where do you see it heading?
I really enjoy the sense of community. As Brighton isn’t that big then it’s not hard to get to know others. I see the coffee scene in Brighton continue to grow and push speciality coffee more and more.
What’s your morning coffee?
My ideal coffee is a pourover. I really like light, delicate coffee with lots of fruity flavour. Ideal recipe 20g coffee, 335g water, 3 minute brew time.
What was the best coffee you’ve ever had and why?
That’s too hard to answer. However the Bolivia Natural from El Arcangel we have at the moment is up there for sure!
Where can people find you?
I am part of Emmanuel church which is a multisite church with four locations around Brighton and Hove. My wife and I serve on the leadership team of the Hove site, so when I’m not making coffee I’m usually doing something church-related.
Photography and videography by Nick Barlow
To check out the video for Max White’s signature drink entered into this year’s Coffee Masters, just press play on the clip below: