For Cole Torode, coffee is much more than a hot drink that fuels early mornings on the way to the office. It’s a lifestyle and a way of life.
Torode is Canada’s national champion and placed fifth in in the World Barista Championship. To many, that might not even register. But there is a whole universe of expertise behind your favourite cup of joe.
For those unaware, baristas are the artists of the coffee world.
When you order the latte with the cool swan poured in the foam, you can thank the barista who has been training to make your drink more than just a quick coffee to go.
Torode has been learning the craft for at least eight years.
The economic downturn of 2008 had a rough impact on Torode’s family. In 2010 Torode graduated high school, initially planning to take a year off to travel and work abroad.
“That was right when the economy tanked. It was really tough on my family so I decided to find work,” Torode explained in a recent interview.
His brother, David Crosby, had started the now popular local coffee chain Rosso Coffee Roasters in 2007. The two brothers grew up separately, but Torode really wanted to work and learn the coffee business, so in 2010 he started at Rosso.
“It was a little bit weird because Dave is my brother, but we are 10 years apart and we didn’t really know each other that well.”
Not long after joining the Rosso team, Torode was persuaded to join a competition. Crosby suggested it would be a great way to learn about the wide world of coffee.
Torode felt a strong a strong attraction to competition, participating on the national level for the first time in 2012.
“It was a great way to be a part of the community and learn. Now, I think it is an interesting platform to gain respect in the industry.”
Initially for Rosso it was a learning curve, just trying to do the best they could with the tools and coffees they had available to them.
“Competition was interesting for us. When we first started we weren’t doing our own roasting. We were using competitor’s coffee and it gave us a disadvantage,” Torode said.
In 2017 Rosso won ATB’s Small Business of the Year award, which kicked business, and the need for strong showings in competition, into high gear. Torode had the confidence to take Rosso to heights he’d never seen before.
“Before going to worlds, I don’t think my knowledge for coffee was any different, but for the people who first saw me compete they respect me because I have a national title.”
I think it is an interesting platform to gain respect in the industry. – Cole Torode.
Fast forward to 2019: Rosso is on the map as one of the best coffee shops in the world when it comes to competition. Utilizing a training room at the head office of Rosso, Torode has all the time he needs to shake up the competition and come up with the best possible routine.
One thing that separates Rosso from the competition is the fact that they directly source coffee from the farms. Torode and Rosso travel the world searching for the perfect bean for the consumer and for competition.
The pressure builds when you have a 2018 like Torode did in competition and Rosso did as a business.
“I think I’ve been asked about 5,000 times if I’ll compete again. I wasn’t sure until recently that I would actually compete for sure this year,” he said.
“There is also the ego side. If I don’t do as well am I going to feel bad about that?
“There is a lot of pressure on me and the company to do well every year.”