Sandri’s on My Mind

Are you sitting comfortably? Then, let’s begin…

My very first blog of this new e-commerce site! I couldn’t decide how to start, so I thought I’d leave it a few days.

I’ve just delivered some coffee to customer and we got chatting for ages (as you do in Kendal) and I told him about something that happened to me in Italy and it seems like a nice way to get going …

About 20 years ago when I was a young sixth form teacher, I blagged a trip to Perugia to help organise a student exchange. On the first morning, I met my contact by the Cathedral at about 7 a.m. A waiter carried a tray of freshly baked pastries across the square and into a café called Sandri’s. The aromas were wonderful. Without even thinking about it we both followed him.

Inside, it was packed with people having morning coffee and grappa and breakfast. A couple of old guys were playing cards on a corner table. I remember the ornately carved wooden mirror frames and the delicious aroma of coffee and pasticci. You could almost chew the air.

I ordered some coffee from the barista, who was immaculately turned out. He was young, but seemed to control his space well and never seemed rushed, even though he was super-busy. As my friend and I ate breakfast, I watched the barista working, impressed by his calmness and friendless to his customers.

I don’t remember much at all about the rest of the day, apart from a teachers’ meeting, which was about as engaging as trainspotting in the mist. But I recall that just before midnight that same day we found ourselves back at Sandri’s. Incredibly, the same barista was serving with the same unhurried verve I’d seen much earlier that morning. He told me that he had been working almost flat out, apart from a couple of hours off in the afternoon. And he did this 6 days a week, with only a few hours sleep a night. As a student, I’d done more than my share of ridiculous jobs (from breaking reject bags of crisps at Walkers, to polishing Woolworths’ floor) to earn money to travel in the holidays. I’d worked in loads of bars too, and for those of us who did that, it was simply a means to an end. When I asked him why he put up with a job that demanded such long hours, he said: “It’s not just a job… it’s a career.”

That really surprised me. And it obviously had an impression on me because I still remember the force of those words. Although, I never thought I’d be so involved in the coffee industry, perhaps his reply was one of those little fated signposts, that if you stop to read can point you in the right direction in life.

If you’re ever near Perugia, go to Sandri’s. You can almost smell the beans and the pastries just by looking at Google Images.