Study abroad

The Beans Talk

Upala Sen
Upala Sen
Posted on 12 Sep 2023
07:39 AM


Varsha Singh Sondhi started the Barista Training Academy in Calcutta first; the coffee shop she co-founded, Café Kathmandu, opened months later in 2020.

A barista is the bartender equivalent in a coffee shop. As expected, Sondhi’s lessons attracted people from the hospitality sector, cafe owners and coffee enthusiasts. The wild card entry was the student; those from different disciplines going abroad for higher studies signed up for the course. Reason: Indian students abroad are allowed to work anything between 15 to 20 hours a week and barista is a popular part-time job.

The US city with the most number of coffee shops per capita is San Francisco. The pay band for baristas is $11 to $22 per hour, going by online ads. And according to, the average salary of a barista in Saudi Arabia is 234 SAR or Saudi Riyals, while says in Australia the same is around AUS $28.


The coffee business in India, according to those in the know, is still peaking. The market is ripe. “As far as I know, hotel management institutes do not offer add-on certified barista training. They have bartending courses as per my knowledge though,” says Sondhi.

Young people with their enthusiasm and energy make for good baristas. While working as baristas they also pick up or improve communication as well as social skills.

At Sondhi’s academy, the groups undergoing training — all mixed — were large and busy, and then Covid struck.

When business resumed post-lockdown, the groups became smaller keeping in mind the Covid protocol, but the student community continued to sign up for training. Among Sondhi’s students are Kunjika Kanoi who has just flown out to Glasgow in Scotland where she will be pursuing higher studies at the University of Strathclyde, Abhishek Sen who is in Michigan, US, to study colour and material design, and Aditya Arora who is a student in Columbia, Ohio, also in the US.

The way the training works is this: basic barista training is spread over four days, three or four hours on any given day. This involves a theory component and a practical component.

Says Sondhi, “It is a very focussed class of three or four students. We teach them how to operate the espresso machine, bean-to-cup history, milk frothing, the brewing techniques and the daily maintenance of the espresso machine.” This is ideally followed up by a two-day training in latte art, which has to do with milk pouring skills and creating patterns in a cup of cappuccino, latte or other milk-based coffee beverages.

At her academy, sometimes Sondhi herself helms the lessons along with her designated certified trainer Salim Matanchhea. Says Abhishek who landed in Michigan some weeks ago, “The course is really much more than a basic course. It is pretty comprehensive. I learned about different forms of brew and process, evaluating coffee flavours and taste and so on.”

Aditya, who has been studying neuroscience in Ohio since October 2022, says, “I have been working in a campus cafe since I arrived and was immediately selected as a barista based on my certificate. I might shift to a different cafe with upgraded espresso machines next semester.”

Some young people looking to work with coffee chains in Calcutta and other cities have also learnt at Barista Training Academy.

“We have trained over 400 plus students since September 2019,” says Sondhi.

The basic training costs Rs 13,999, while the latte art course fee is Rs 7,999.

The basic barista course needs to be followed up with an exam administered by the American Hospitality Academy (AHA), which also issues a certificate once a student clears the practical as well as theory components of the course. AHA is a provider of international training and exchange programmes specifically designed for the hospitality industry. It takes about 10-12 days for AHA to issue the certificate.

Once upon a time, it was customary for Indian students studying abroad on scant funding or self-funding, at need or whim, to take up part-time jobs at a well-known American fast food chain. Now, coffee seems to have taken that place. But the good thing is that in an Internet-levelled world, young people flying the nest today are better clued into the realities on the other side as well as to the opportunities and facilities available at home to prepare them in some part for it.

Last updated on 12 Sep 2023
09:15 AM
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