Hello, I’m Marium Asghar and I’m a 23 years old barista, born and bred in Lahore’s Cantt area. I belong to a middle class family. I completed my bachelors in Arts from Punjab University and I’m currently doing my MBA. I’m also working as a Barista and Trainer at Pantheon coffees. I’m representing Barista Guild Asia here and I work from 10am – 7pm. My barista journey had an unusual start. I started working for a Japanese food brand – Uncle Tetsu on Kasuri Road – in 2018, not for the sake of providing for my family, but to become financially independent and do something on my own. I started my barista training with Ahmed Sahab, who taught me everything from scratch, because I came in having zero coffee knowledge. What piqued my interest in coffee was Drip Coffee. Whenever I used to sip some drip coffee, I would be in awe. Each coffee had such pronounced notes of its own. Tasting and identifying notes – That’s what got my journey started for real. I started off on the Gina coffee maker. If it wasn’t for Ahmed Sahab, I wouldn’t be here. He saw something in me, made sure I got the best coffee education, and I aspire to be like him. Drip Coffee is all about timing and pouring technique. That’s what makes it the most interesting and most difficult too. At first, I took it very easy, until Ahmed Sahab told me that I had my last chance of trying drip coffee within the given time – four minutes! I absolutely love fruity, citrusy notes in my coffee. A little acidic, but overall, clean, fresh and crisp. I’ve had countless tasting and identifying exercises, to understand the coffee notes better. It’s weird how, now that I know what different notes taste and smell like, your experience of food and drinks change. I’m a lot more observant now. I used to be extremely aggressive, extremely volatile and reactive. Ever since I started working as a barista, I’ve become more empathetic, I understand people’s feelings better. I think when you don’t love your work, that negative energy channels itself through aggression. I love my work, it’s what I’m most passionate about. Life has been kind towards me and I try to channel that into my work and my conservations and interaction with the customer. I learn more from my juniors and I guess that’s my training strategy. Stay humble, stay friendly, but there has to be discipline. You cannot learn a craft like this without giving your 100%. What I’ve noticed is – I hardly know of any female baristas – perhaps 3 or 4? Our society doesn’t encourage women to work in the hospitality environment. And, because they’ve been listening to this since their childhood, they set these stereotypes in their minds. One should be confident in yourself. We can be anything we want to be, and I highly encourage them to come and train as baristas. They’d love it – just like I did! Initially, it was just my mother and sister who supported this career. I wouldn’t say my father was non-supportive, but he did not understand this job until I started working full time. Now, it’s all good. I’m glad to see the coffee scene in Pakistan change. People who previously used to work at coffee shops, are now making their own coffee houses, and they’re giving out specialty coffee at the same rate as the commercial ones. Of course, people would notice the difference. If they’re getting better quality at the same price, then why would they go back to commercial coffee? That’s what my main goal is. To own my coffee house and make it all about celebrating different coffee notes – where people buy coffee based on the notes they like or want to try for themselves. But first, there is a long, learning journey ahead for me!