January 21, 2015

The Swiss Coffee Culture according to Shem Leupin

Switzerland (Europe). Credit: Google Maps

We caught up with Shem Leupin, a roaster in Stoll Kaffee, based in Zurich, Switzerland & is “Head of Quality Management” at their specialty coffee division. He won the Swiss Barista Championship in 2013.

Shem was born in Switzerland and grew up in Australia. After a working holiday back in Australia in 2007 as barista,  Shem returned to Switzerland, working as a barista, and progressing to manager until he became a specialty coffee roaster in 2013. Shem enjoys traveling and learning even more about coffee.

Stoll Kaffee coffee sack

Before We Talked About Switzerland’s Coffee Culture,  We Learned About Shem…

What is coffee?

A fruit!

What do you believe specialty coffee to be?

For me, specialty coffee is an honest connection to the natural product. It should represent and honour the producers who are working hard and going to great lengths to give us better coffee. I also believe specialty coffee to be progressive food culture.

What was your first encounter of coffee?

My earliest memory of coffee was making filter coffee for my parents on weekends. It had no concept and I can’t imagine it would have tasted good.

Name your most outstanding coffee moment?

I don’t know about a single stand-out moment, but my fondest memory is my first job a café in Sydney. Until then I didn’t even know that the barista profession existed…and to think now where that led me!

Shem Leupin at SCAE Swiss Barista Championship 2013

Q & A on Switzerland’s Coffee Culture

Why do people drink coffee?

At present in Switzerland, the importance and reason for drinking coffee revolves mainly around coffee’s caffeine content and the effects thereof. It’s also a social drink, the daytime equivalent of alcohol in the evening. The barista is still more about latte-art.

What is most important to the consumer when selecting coffee?

Our Swiss coffee culture is very rooted in traditional Italian coffee culture, dark roasts and a lot of Robusta blends. Customers generally focus on viscosity and roast aromas.

Do consumers know or care about where coffee comes from?

The consumer is usually focused on information pertaining to sustainability, although it is changing slowly. The country, variety and process are not yet as important.

What characteristics do people look for in their cup?

People are generally looking for nutty, chocolatey cups with little to no acidity.

Barista championship Switzerland

What are their drinking habits?

The Swiss drink a lot of espresso based milk drinks. Filter coffee is shunned as a weak drink. They also drink a lot of ‘kaffee-crème’, a long coffee pulled from the espresso machine. They drink between 2-5 cups a day and spend around $25-50 a week on coffee in cafés.

What are the rules & taboos of coffee drinking?

There aren’t really any set rules or drinking habits.

What cultural traditions are infused with coffee?

In Switzerland our only national drink is the ‘kaffee-crème’. It is around 8 grams of coffee to 110 millilitres of water.

Coffee with crema

What goes with coffee?

Primarily milk and sugar accompany coffee. Chocolate powder is also still generally used for cappuccinos. A croissant is usually eaten with the first coffee in the morning.

How long does it take to get served a cup of coffee?

This very much depends on the popularity of the café but I would say it usually takes around 3-5 minutes. At some busier cafés the waiting time can be around 10-12 minutes.

Cup of coffee surrounded by coffee beans
Barista wearing a hat

Edited by E Williams.

Perfect Daily Grind.