Restaurants / Openings

Texas’ First Coffee Training Center Makes a Stir in Dallas — Going to Barista School

Deep Ellum's Counter Culture Puts a "Coffee Snob" in Her Place

BY // 01.31.20

Since 1995, Counter Culture Coffee has been focused on sustainable and quality roasting, as well as education. The Durham, North Carolina-based company currently provides its beans to local coffee shops, including Weekend (at The Joule), Fiction Coffee, Sip Stir Coffee House, and more.

Dallas is the 14th United States city to gain a Counter Culture Coffee training center, and the first in Texas. There are currently locations all across the West Coast to the East, educating professional baristas who wish to enhance their brewing, espresso pulling, grinding, and — most importantly for us avid latte consumers — milk art skills.

For coffee nerds like me, this is a true treat. Besides training baristas in a professional capacity, the Dallas location offers free weekly tastings to the public on Friday mornings at 10 am.

You can also take a Home Brew class to learn how to make cafe-quality coffee at home. This, specifically, will include hands-on pour over brewing instruction, show you how to tailor your recipe and grind size, and offer advice on how to find your perfect coffee match.

Counter Culture Coffee
New barista training school, Counter Culture Coffee, has opened in Deep Ellum. (Courtesy of Counter Culture Coffee)

And for the more experienced barista, there is a Catalog Cupping class each month where you’ll be able to cup Counter Culture’s entire lineup of coffees to keep up with seasonal changes. If you don’t have any previous cupping experience, do not fret, there’s a Cupping Fundamentals course you can take before joining the more advanced class.

At the Grand Opening of Counter Culture Dallas, I had the opportunity to witness the hardcore coffee tutorial live and in person. I was once a barista in Los Angeles for six months at a self-proclaimed “Third-Wave” coffee shop, so I had thought I had seen most things when it comes to espresso tastings, milk steaming, and note memorizing. But, cupping is in a whole other league of the coffee world.

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First, our Counter Culture instructor told us to sniff the coffee grounds in each (about 8 ounce) cup. But, she made sure to tell us not to snort it too hard or it’ll go up your nose and hurt quite a bit. My mind immediately went to that scene in Orange is the New Black: Season 5 when the rioting inmates snort coffee grounds to stay awake and end up violently ill. So yeah, don’t do that.

Counter Culture Coffee
The new Counter Culture Coffee space is part showroom, part training center. (Photo by Megan Ziots)

After sufficient sniffing, hot water is poured over the grounds (Cowboy style) and then the surface of each coffee is smoothed out with a spoon. Then, our instructor proceeded to scrape off the grounds that had floated to the top of the coffee. Coffee grounds remain at the bottom so we were advised not to scoop too far down with the little spoons we were given in order to avoid consuming chunky wet coffee bean remnant. Because no one wants that.

Tasters were encouraged to take a small spoon sip from each coffee cup and attempt to determine the flavor profile of each kind. For the more advanced coffee enthusiasts, there was a rainbow-colored flavor wheel available, with notes narrowed down to spices like cumin and nutmeg and tropical fruits like papaya and coconut, to name a few. Comparable to my recent Blind Wine Tasting adventure in Napa Valley, my note knowledge is limited— my tastebuds do not know anything.

Counter Culture put me in my place. A self-proclaimed “coffee snob,” I realized I still have a lot to learn and this is definitely the place to do it. Very knowledgable, entertaining and without pretension, this coffee training center is a must-visit for anyone with a passion for coffee.

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