Do you love coffee enough to make it a daily obsession?  Maybe you’re a barista wondering how to transform your job in coffee into a career? We caught up with latte art expert and previous UK Latte Art finalist Ben Lewis aka ‘Barista_Benji’ ahead of his third time competing.  He tells us how he fell accidentally in love with latte art and specialty coffee but also shares some valuable tips on how to progress and make it into a career…

Tell us a bit about your background in coffee, was it something you wanted to make into a career?

Not at all, I originally got into coffee working for a big chain. It was my first job and I spent 5 years working for them until I started university when I quit because I had too much work to complete.

However, my best friend later forced me to go for an interview at an independent café. I went but didn’t really want the job – I even turned up in a hoody and trackies! It turned out the boss was Dhan Tamang (who is a 6 times UK Latte Art Champion) and he gave me the job!

From there I discovered the skill of latte art, something I hadn’t learned after 5 years of working at a big chain. I got obsessed and since then I’ve continued to build a career in coffee.

What was your barista career path?

I went from Barista to Manager to Area Manager to Operations Manager before jumping across to do pure coffee work as Head of Coffee at my current job with Winchester Coffee Orangery.  We’re a small family-owned business in what is becoming a very coffee centred town. 

As Head of Coffee the whole coffee menu is on me! It’s great to be in charge of decision making for one specific area.

What advice would you give to people that love coffee and want to make it into a career but don’t know where to start?

I’m actually training somebody new at the moment who wants to do just that but doesn’t know how to do it. Honestly, I think going to all the events possible is probably the best idea.

I fell into it by accident, but I now know that going to coffee festivals, competitions and spending time around people that love the same thing really gave me the edge. Most importantly it allows you to finddifferent avenues into the coffee industry.

What do you think about the state of the industry at the moment for young baristas that are looking to work their way up?

In terms of my area which is specific to latte art I think it’s getting harder. It’s certainly becoming more competitive and difficult to get to the top level.

It can be quite daunting for people starting out because they see incredible baristas with years of experience on platforms like Instagram.

However, even when I was starting there were people a lot better than me but you just have to go through the process and get knocked out in the first round of competitions just to find out what it’s like and how much more there is to go.

You are competing at the UK Latte championships for the 3rd time this year, are you feeling confident?

I am. I’m feeling really confident.

The first time I wasn’t nervous because I was going with my boss Dhan and it was widely recognised he was going to win. He completely dominated so my goal was to come second, which I did.

The next year when Dhan decided not to compete it was a lot more nerve-racking because it felt like I had a chance of winning and I think that’s why I did slightly worse.

This year I’ve been able to spend a lot of time being creative and now I’m starting to feel more confident than I ever have.

Any big plans for the future?  

My plans for the future are centred on UK Latte Art, my goal right now is to stay on the tours and stay behind the bar until I get myself a championship.

The Sanremo Cafe Racer is the official sponsor for the UK Latte Art Championships. Find out more information on this machine here.