When people think about the Vancouver coffee scene, they normally think about Starbucks, Caffe Artigiano, Blenz or Waves. What they don’t know is that one of the best baristas in the world, Sammy Piccolo, works on Commercial Drive in East Vancouver. Yes, one of the best baristas in the world – even one of our Men of Vancouver, Mike Falco, thinks so.
Some of Sammy’s accomplishments include four time Canadian barista champion, world latte art champion, second place in world barista championship three times, third place world barista champion and Las Vegas latte art championship. You can catch him at his cafe Prado running the show.
1. What ignited your passion for coffee?
My brother and I worked in restaurants and we wanted to have our evenings free. We eventually developed love for coffee and we opened Caffe Artigiano. However, we are no longer owners. I eventually competed in barista championships, both nationally and internationally. As that process happened, my passion for coffee deepened and now, I own Prado here on Commercial Drive.
2. Why East Vancouver or more importantly, Prado?
Prado was one of the first cafes to use 49th Parallel coffee, a coffee shop which my brother Vince runs. The space and location also attracted me. I made a lot of changes since taking over, such as the outdoor benches, tables, espresso machine, a couple grinders. I plan to make more changes over the next couple years. I also took over Prado because I wanted to make it the best cafe on Commercial Drive.
3. What constitutes the perfect cup of coffee?
Nobody knows what the perfect cup of coffee is. However, there are steps one can take to ensure that they can make an exceptional cup of coffee. Some of these steps include ensuring coffee’s are set to the correct grind and correct extraction by tasting and using our extractmojo, as much as possible, we also weigh everything to ensure coffees are being served at there correct ratio. Those are just a couple steps we use to ensure we serve a good consistent cup of coffee as close to “perfect” as we can.
4. If one wants to appear at the world barista championship, what steps can they do to ensure they get there?
In order to get to the world barista championship, you must win your regional championship, then move out to the national championship. Also, you must really get to know coffee; the farmer, the farm, the evaluation, the process, the roasting process, which roast profile tastes best for your coffee, why the coffee was roasted the way it was. Then it is very important to have a good team on your side who can tell you the truth. But most importantly if you want to go to the world barista championship you have to win your nationals.
5. If you could tell people one thing about the coffee scene in Vancouver, what would it be?
Vancouver has one of the best coffee scenes in the world. People who live in Vancouver or are here on holiday need to check out some of the great cafes in this city.
*End of interview*
Prado Cafe is located on 1938 Commercial Drive. It’s open daily from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. To learn more about Sammy, follow him on Twitter at @sammypiccolo.
Connect with Jasmina on twitter at @javajunkie86.
Image: Patrick Shannon