Meet the Barista: Jane Cho, Coffee Pen

Jane Cho was attracted to a career in coffee because she simply loves drinking it. She has been in the industry for seven years and spent time in front of house before deciding to get behind the tools. Cho expanded her knowledge by working with different baristas across various cafes and is now the head barista at Coffee Pen in Eden Terrace, Auckland. 

Originally from Christchurch, Cho moved to Auckland at the beginning of 2017. She finds the most rewarding aspect of her job at Coffee Pen is meeting new people.

"You can make a lot of connections in this industry. I've made friends with coworkers and customers. But even on a regular day, it is fun talking to new people that come into Coffee Pen," said Cho. 

The barista doesn't think she has a favourite origin or blend of coffee because she enjoys variety. But most recently, some Guatemala filter beans took her fancy. In her opinion, the defining features of a coffee are the aroma, the balance of body, acidity, bitterness and sweetness - she wants her coffee to be full of flavour!

A tip for at-home baristas from Cho is that you don't need fancy equipment or an expensive espresso machine. A decent grinder is a great place to start. Pre-ground beans go stale fast and lose flavour in the coffee, so she recommends buying whole beans and grinding them at home. A perk of a good at-home grinder is that you can adjust the grind size and use different methods to make coffee. 

The rise of alternative milk is a trend Cho has noticed within the industry. Oat is her personal favourite because it tastes good and is more sustainable than whole dairy milk. That is why her go–to coffee order is an oat piccolo or oat flat white, unless it's summertime, then she will go for a cold brew. 

When she can't smell coffee beans, Cho loves being creative through freelance illustration work, drawing, creating miniature clay objects or cooking. She also recently took up rollerskating with a close friend and coworker, Cindy. The pair skate twice a week for something fun and challenging. 

To anyone looking into the hospitality industry or that wants to be a barista, Cho recommends applying to places you know to make consistently great coffee and to prove you have a good work ethic. Opportunities only come to those that prove themselves. Follow instructions and have high standards so you will be given more chances to practice. 

"Oh, and make sure you actually have a passion for coffee and are eager to improve. If you get comfortable behind the machine, explore new ways to challenge yourself."