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Dhan Tamang has big dreams and an even bigger agenda to achieve them all. After competing in the 2022 Barista Competition, the 6x UK Latte Art Champion chatted with Brewed by Hand about his passion and drive to share all he has learned and experienced with the coffee industry.
Continue reading to hear about Dhan’s incredible past 16 years in the coffee industry, and how he continues innovate and grow his career.
I started coffee in 2006. I’m originally from Nepal, and I really wanted to get working in something, didn’t have to be a café. I got a chance to go to Kuwait on a two-year contract and as a Nepalese youngster, unless you go to boarding school or private school, you just take whatever’s in front of you. I got a job as a barista in Kuwait and worked there for two years. They wanted to have a “coffee maker”, I remember them telling me. I basically sold for the first time ever, coffee made from coffee bean – lattes, cappuccino, americano– which was interesting.
In Kuwait in 2007, I was the best barista in the year within the company, even though it was only my second year. These things encouraged me to do coffee and I realised there are people that appreciate every morning when you make coffee. People love it and see it as a family. So, I went back to Nepal and did the same in the coffee. I started teaching people, sharing my coffee experience and knowledge.
Then in 2010, I came here to the UK, to a different world. I used to work in London, Gail’s Bakery. Then one year I became head barista, so I moved to Winchester, became a head barista and manager. I opened my own business in March 2016, Coffee Lab. It started off as a really small coffee shop.
When I moved to Winchester in 2011, I didn’t work in specialty coffee. In 2013, when I competed in my first UK Latte Art Championship, I was just a little guy with some jugs going in there to compete, and I won. Since that first competition, I never looked back.
The competition is not real. It doesn’t make you who you are. It’s not to disrespect the title, I love it, I’m glad and thankful I won. But I’m not just Dhan Tamang who won 6x title UK Latte Art Championship, what I love is using those titles to share my knowledge and experience. Even during the Barista Championship semifinal, Dan Fellow, who was the MC, asked me “why are you competing in this competition? You have won so many awards.” I said, “Well, I have been working in the coffee industry for 16 years, and to compete in this competition from this stage, I am sharing 16 years of experience”. That means they don’t have to wait 16 years to learn to become Dhan Tamang. They can see a summary of 16 years in 15 minutes. That is what I always want to do, share what I know about coffee, about the industry. It’s an experience you share to others.
That’s why I published my book “Coffee Art”.
It was one of my dreams, and I am always looking for how I can share what I know with other people. I am not shy to share in front of hundreds of people, pouring latte art. The more people, the more cameras. I love it. People love it. I’m showing and sharing something.
So, I thought what’s the best way to share? It’s a book, apart from social media. At least at that time I didn’t have a lot of followers. I believed I had the right content, because there are not many books available dedicated to latte art in the world of coffee. Now we have six different languages!
The next thing was how can I do more? In terms of business, the more I opened the shop, the more opportunity I was given–to people, to market, to the industry. There was at some point we had 15 shops. It was crazy. This is the journey. Then this year, I competed in the Barista Championship.
Barista Championship was something new for me because I always competed in Latte Art Championship. Latte Art versus Barista championship is completely two different things. Latte art involved more individual performance, skill. You need a lot of artistry, technique as well, but it’s more about the person.
I wanted to compete in Barista championship because as a barista you never stop learning. I’ve been a barista for the last 16 years, and I thought “I want to learn”. What I believe, when competing, it doesn’t matter where you come, like first, second, third, fourth, fifth–it doesn’t matter. You learn in the preparation. That’s where you become a better barista than before. That’s why I decided to compete in barista championship.
I have a few projects coming up, but it is very early. I am pulling together all these connections, and my network. As a barista, it’s not just you working behind the bar all day. It’s a door, a window to open the opportunity in coffee.
My next thing is to just keep pouring latte art.
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