Sam Rozario tells that coffee is something inseparable from his life
Like any other South Indian, Sam Rozario considered coffee just another morning drink till he joined a coffee shop. It happened to turn his life around. Now he is a renowned ‘barista’ (brewer) in the country spreading awareness about the drink.
Born in Madurai, Sam joined his father and mother in Chennai where his father was employed. He joined Café Coffee Day as a part-timer just to earn some money. “I was studying then and it helped me financially,” he says. “At that time I never thought my professional career would begin here. I had lot of fun in those days.”
He also found an opportunity to meet people and interact with them. “From morning to late in the evening, our world revolved around our customers. We used to gather information about the outside world from the visitors.”
What started as a hobby soon turned out to be a career option once he finished his studies. “Knowingly or unknowingly I started liking the work. I spent hours together looking at people brewing coffee and liked their multitasking.”
His willingness to subject himself to any sort of work caught the attention of his superiors and he was soon rewarded for his sincerity. “It took me more than 18 months to touch the espresso machine,” says Sam. “Since the machine’s cost was so much people never let me go near.”
He was one of the select few to be called for intensive training in coffee making at the company’s main office in Bangalore. “The seven days’ programme altered my idea about coffee,” he says. “We visited coffee plantations in Chikmagalur in Karnataka. I learnt more about coffee harvesting and period of cultivation. It was more in-depth training where I came to know what could affect coffee quality and roasting techniques.”
He got an opportunity to test his skills at the Indian Barista Championships in 2005. At the time, he had worked for just two years with the company and had to pass through its selection trials. “I reached the finals but could not win the cup,” he laments.
His commitment and never-say-die attitude won him the silver in the 2009 championship. “I took part after a four-year gap,” Sam says. The very next year he won the gold and qualified to represent the country in the Asian Barista Championship in Singapore. There, his signature beverage ‘Samsroc’, a combination of chocolate, orange and rum flavour with espresso, fell short of a win.
“I had to make four espresso, four cappuccinos and four signature beverages with coffee. I was disqualified because I did not fulfil the clause of using sponsors’ products for my signature beverages,” he says.
When he competed in the 2011 Indian Barista Championship, he won a bronze medal with a signature concoction of white chocolate and coffee, based on apple as the core ingredient. He used a cinnamon stick as the stirrer.
Sam is now an Assistant Manager (Learning and Development) at Café Coffee Day. An expert in different brewing techniques, he says that environment, equipment, ingredients and water determine the quality of the coffee. “A brewer has to set the grind size thrice a day,” Sam explains. “It all depends on the weather conditions. On a cloudy day coffee powder absorbs moisture in the air and becomes damp. When you load it in the machine it gets hard. As there are no air cavities, water takes long to pass through, resulting in an over-extracted espresso. The coffee tastes bitter. If it is sunny, it is the other way round. Hence the size of the coffee granules becomes important.”
As the blend decides the cup taste, every manufacturer accords utmost importance to the way the beans are processed, he says. “Constant testing of different samplings is also done to ensure the quality.” From team member to trainer, Sam has raced up the career ladder. Now, he wants to create more blends and aims to become a cup taster.