Pumphreys on the BBC Website

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Making a good coffee is tricky

Making the perfect coffee

The rise of coffee culture in the UK shows no sign of stopping – and now you can learn to be a barista yourself at a training centre in Blaydon.

“I’ve had some bad coffees with burnt milk and I’m fed up of it. I’m going to teach people to make good coffee.”

That’s the promise of Stuart Lee Archer, head trainer and website manager for Pumphreys of Newcastle – a man who is seriously passionate about coffee.

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Stuart plans to enter the UK barista championship

Barista training

The tea and coffee company has a long heritage on Tyneside, dating back to 1750, but it’s successfully moved with times.

Their latest venture has been to create a barista training centre at their premises in Blaydon.

Such a move would have been unthinkable ten years ago, but with the rise of coffee culture and multi-national cafe chains there’s now a huge demand for good coffee.

“The more espresso machines we were putting out the more we were recognising the need for training,” explains Stuart Lee who leads the training sessions.

“You could do an hour of training when you did an installation but the person you trained might not be there next week.”

“We’ve done everything along the chain to produce this great coffee but it still comes down to the person actually making it and it can easily be ruined,” continues Paula Jean Archer, sales and marketing manager. “So we just wanted to get people more enthused about it really.”

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Malcolm’s been roasting beans for years

High standards

The centre opened at the end of 2006 and already a broad mix of students, catering staff and coffee enthusiasts has been through its doors to learn the secrets of making a proper espresso.

“We start off teaching them a tiny bit about coffee history and what coffee is and then we move on to the espresso extraction and what makes it special,” Stuart Lee says of the course.

“We take people through why something tastes good and why something tastes bad. We also teach people how to foam milk properly, which is something a lot of people can’t do.” (Here’s a good tip – if you go for a coffee and they have to spoon the foam out of the milk jug onto your drink then they’ve overdone it.)

“If people take what I say on the course and understand it they will produce a coffee that’s better than 99% of the coffee out there.”

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There is coffee from 19 countries in the warehouse

That’s quite a damning comment on the quality of the majority of coffees being served but Stuart Lee has high standards.

“My girlfriend hates me as we can’t go in anywhere for coffee,” he says. “When we go in somewhere I can hear if they’re not making it properly and walk straight back out!”

He really is evangelical about coffee – and it doesn’t stop with the training centre. Pumphreys are now working with other companies around the country to try to set up a City and Guilds course on coffee.

It’s seems as though coffee is starting to be taken as seriously as wine – with tastings and talk of pairing different blends with different meals. That’s quite a change for what is traditionally a nation of tea drinkers!

Find out more about the history of Pumphreys:

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