Well the competition is over for another year. There were highs and lows, excitement and disappointment, showmanship and shakey hands, and in the end, quality coffee was the winner.
Well coffee and Nolan Hirte, showman and barista extraordinaire from Lemon Espresso in Claremont.
Nolan’s performance was funky yet refined. Getting the crowd going the way only he can with some old school beats (I can’t even remember the last time I heard Ini Kamoze – Here comes the hot stepper, but it worked so well ) and then wowing the judges with excellent technique and most importantly the flavour in the cup.
The rest of the event was a showcase of Perth’s best baristas. Those willing to put their time, money, and reputations on the line in order to compete for the chance to make it into the national finals of the Australian Barista Championship, and then if successful, on to the World Barista Championships, this year being held in Tokyo – Japan.
The format is a set list of requirements that each competitor must accomplish in their allotted time, as specified by AASCA (The Australasian Specialty Coffee Association), an independent body that exists to promote knowledge of and further excellence in coffee in Australia.
So each competitor has 15 minutes practice time, 15 minutes competition time, and 15 minutes clean up time. During the 15 minutes of practice they will adjust the grinder to suit their blend. Arrange ingredients and warm cups, set up the area the way they want it. During the 15 minutes of competition time, the barista must make 4 espressos, 4 cappuccinos, and 4 signature drinks of their own creation. The signature drink must be espresso based, and show all of the baristas creativity and understanding of the flavour profile of their blend, in order to combine it with other interesting components.
After serving all 3 types of drinks, the competition time is over, and the sensory judges go off to collaborate their scores and assign marks to each drink in a number of very specific areas. Technical judges are assigned to look at all aspects of the baristas routine, and to ensure they are using hygienic practices at all times during the competition.
The technical score and the sensory scores are then put together to form an overall score for each barista. The only other thing affecting scores is time. If a barista goes over time they lose points for every 15 seconds they are over, up til a maximum of 2 minutes, at which point they are disqualified.
If any of that sounds like a walk in the park… let me tell you it isn’t. These guys are the top people in their field, used to turning out hundreds of coffees a day in their respective cafes, but with the spotlight on them and the time on the clock, it’s a whole other experience entirely. Sweat beading on brows, shakey fingers trying to arrange delicate ingredients into glassware and ferry them smoothly over to the judges tables… it’s a stressful thing. Which makes me glad that all I had to do was sit around and take photos :)
So the list of place getters was:
1st – Nolan Hirte (Lemon Espresso)
2nd – Jen Murray (WA Barista Academy)
3rd – Jeremy Hulsdunk (Epic Espresso)
Each of the winners were extremely deserving, but in truth there were a number of other excellent competitors who would have also been deserving of a place, and whose coffee I would happy to drink any day of the week.
So congratulations to all involved, it was one of the best competitions I’ve been to, and the audio/visual setup and camera work were second to none, ensuring the everyone in the room got a great view of all the action, whether they be at the judges table, or right down the back of the room.
The event was also a great way for many different people in the Perth coffee scene to get together and talk about how to make the industry better. Representatives from such local companies as Five Senses, Fiori, European Foods, Aroma Cafe, Rubra Coffee, and many other local cafe owners and baristas joined with interstate and overseas judges and officials to promote quality coffee.
Much love to Ben Bicknell for his tireless efforts at organising the event, and to all the other judges and volunteers who pulled everything together when it counted. Congratulations to Nolan on the win, and to all the other competitors for making it such a great event. Lets hope WA has the next Australian, nay WORLD barista champion amongst it’s ranks.