‘We are all extremely lucky to be working in coffee here in Sweden’

When Steve Moloney made the decision to move to Sweden, he had no clue he would get into the coffee business, and even less that he would become the Swedish National Barista Champion.

'We are all extremely lucky to be working in coffee here in Sweden'
Steve Moloney drinking coffee. Photo: Love Coffee Roasters

Moloney, 28, is from Australia and has been living in Sweden for around five years.

In that short time, he's done quite the job establishing himself in the Swedish and Scandinavian coffee scene.

“When I first moved here, it was kind of difficult to get that first job when you don’t speak the language or have many connections here, so I ended up getting a job in a tiny little cafe in Malmö.”

What Moloney didn’t realize is that one connection in that job would soon establish his career for years to come.

Steve pouring coffee in Lund. Photo: Love Coffee Roasters

“I met this guy whose job it was to train baristas there and he was actually the then barista champion of Sweden. So I just kind of hassled him until he agreed to help me out and train me more, and through him I got better jobs, and really got into coffee.”

If you've been to Australia, you will know that it also has a very strong coffee culture. So why wasn’t he into it before coming to Sweden? “I grew up from high school onwards drinking lots of coffee because it’s what you do. But I didn’t know much about coffee in reality, looking back on it.”

So while one may drink a lot of coffee, that doesn’t mean they know how it goes from bean to cup. Moloney says it was mostly due to the people he was surrounded with in Sweden that helped him to integrate into the coffee community.

“My first cafe job was like 2012-2013. I started working for a company in Lund called Love Coffee Roasters, and the owner and two other people working there had a lot of experience in competitions, so when I started working there it was kind of obvious to me ‘I want to compete as well because you guys have’. So with all of their help, I managed to do quite well the first time I competed in 2015. It was just a lot of help and advice from them and working really hard to get to win the championship in 2016.”

Steve making coffee in Dublin WBC 2016. Photo: Fabian Schmid

Winning the championship for the first time was “both bigger and much smaller than it sounds,” he notes.

“There is a big world of coffee that cares a lot about competitions, but most people when you tell them, ‘Yeah I won this coffee competition’, They’re like ‘What? How do you compete in coffee?’. So it’s kinda like that thing where some people think ‘ Wow, cool!’ and others are like, ‘What are you talking about?”

Steve winning Swedish Barista Championships in 2017. Photo: SCAE Sweden

It seems like quite the tight-knit community.

“The thing here is first of all, amongst especially coffee people, if you display an interest and be really friendly, people are very generous with their time and with wanting to help other people out and educate them and stuff. So I guess try your hand out in the beginning and just meet lots of people based in Malmö or based in Stockholm, and you’ll get a chance to hang out, learn, and drink coffee with them.”

Presently, Moloney has used his influence in the coffee world for two projects: The Barista League and Kaffekurs. Both organizations are devoted to invigorating lovers of coffee.

Steve giving coffee to judges in Seoul 2017. Photo: Unknown

“The Barista League started in 2015. The idea was basically to create an event for coffee professionals, because when you work behind the bar, you’re basically just standing there making espresso, cappuccino, selling sandwiches – which is a world of good but it’s not connecting with some of the cooler parts of the industry, getting to travel, meet farmers and compete.”

Not everyone is able to do the jobs they are most passionate about within their career, and Moloney provides a way for baristas to be part of the fun.

“So that was the idea, have some drinks, make some coffee, have a little competition, and put a bunch of these people into a room together. The first one was in Lund in 2015, which was maybe 10 competitors with 50 people watching and now we’re gonna do a US tour in a few months we have 96 competitors and like 800 people coming, it’s insane.”

Steve outside The Barista League. Photo: The Barista League, Steve Press Kit

Professional baristas are likely grateful for Moloney’s work, but also many newcomers as well, thanks to the training programme he has set up.

“I co-founded Kaffekurs with Markus Vestergaard earlier this year. We have both been doing trainings at different companies over the past three or so years and both really enjoy developing and delivering training for people.”

That is golden news for anyone attempting to learn the craft of coffee.

Steve competing in Dublin WBC 2016. Photo: Fabian Schmid

“We spent quite a bit of time together developing courses that are easy, accessible and most of all fun for people to attend. Specialty coffee can be a bit intimidating, nerdy or hipster sometimes so we wanted to do courses that anyone can come to and have a great time and leave with a bit more knowledge about what goes into a cup of coffee.”

These courses range from ones for complete beginners to avid drinkers, or to baristas who are preparing for competitions. So Moloney's idea was to create a coffee school, “where knowledge was accessible but practical and delivered by people who really know what they are talking about”.

Steve speaking with judges in Seoul competition 2017. Photo: Unknown

Despite already having awards under his belt, the Australian still has big goals for the future.

“Coming from being a barista, it isn't really a sustainable career path when most people are still working on minimum wage in a fairly physically demanding job – it's not something that you see yourself doing forever.  So being able to start these businesses inside of the coffee industry is about staying connected with such a vibrant community and interesting product, but also being able to create something with some career longevity.” 

Ultimately Moloney would love to create an environment where baristas can work in the parts of the industry that they love, and for a long duration.

“We are in all honesty extremely lucky to be working in coffee here in Sweden, but there are a lot of people who get taken advantage of in the coffee industry and it would be great to channel some of our energy to improving the livelihoods of those people in some way.”

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