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School of coffee opens in Little Portugal Add to ...

A group of Toronto baristas is aiming to raise the bar on good coffee with the opening of a new school to train coffee shop workers in the proper roasting, brewing and serving of espresso.

And java fanatics who just want to learn how to make a decent latte at home will also be welcome at the new Espresso Institute of North America.

"It's important to make sure that all the cafés have this available," says Ezra Braves, the institute's president, adding that restaurants could also benefit from a little schooling at the institute.

"Most places have the equipment and the coffee, but they don't have the training."

The school will offer three levels of barista training, instructing professional coffee makers in everything from the history of the drink to the finer points of tamping down espresso grounds and texturing steamed milk to create intricate heart- and leaf-shaped patterns on the top of lattes.

The most advanced course is aimed at experienced baristas. It covers roasting, selecting and tasting different blends of coffee, and taking care of espresso machines.

While some stores and coffee trade groups offer courses in making espresso, Mr. Braves says the institute will be Toronto's first full-fledged school of coffee preparation. Such schools exist in many other cities around the world, but are particularly concentrated on the west coast of the United States.

Courses will take place at the Little Portugal location of Ezra's Pound, Mr. Braves' own cafe.

"It's not just making coffee, it's café culture itself," says Mr. Braves, adding that the classes will mix their instruction with lessons on real life practicalities, such as working in a crowded kitchen and dealing with long lines of java-jonesing customers.

Mr. Braves himself didn't have the benefit of such a school when he was coming up in the coffee world. His instruction came on the job: He recalls in particular an Italian grandmother who worked next to him in a restaurant kitchen in Sarnia and would call for a break so the two of them could share an espresso.

"We would have a social, timeless moment. It's really about the romance of the history of café culture," he says.

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