2009 WA Latte Art and Coffee Cupping Competition

Tanghy limbers up WA Latte Art and Coffee Cupping Compeition

We had another great day at the Latte Art championships and the Cupping Competition last Sunday. I bravely stood up to the plate again and sacrificed my tastebuds to the cause of coffee to judge the latte art competition in the morning, because as we all (should) know, latte art is much more than just drawing hearts and flowers on top of coffee. The milk temperature and texture and the way it combines with the espresso is paramount to getting a good score. So no matter how lovely your patterns are, if your coffee tastes like microwaved nescafe, you will lose.

Fortunately the competitors on Sunday were a much classier lot than that, and after some stirling efforts from many competitors, the winner once again was Production Supervisor and latte artiste extraordinaire, Kim Godleman of 5 Senses.

Sadly I was judging the whole time of the comp, and with no minions to run around taking photos for me, I didn’t get many shots of the actual competitors during the day. The 5 Senses team did get a few shots though, that you can check out here.

Next up was the cupping competition, and true to form, I had not practiced once. Still, my steely nerves and trust in my palate was strong. I managed to get a break for lunch in between the latte art and the cupping, so I primed the tastebuds with a potato and ham calzone and a lemon lime and bitters. A lunch of taste champions no doubt. A few swirls of mineral water just to round out the bitters and we were good to go.

What is cupping you say ?
Cupping is the traditional method for breaking down the flavour profiles of brewed coffee. You roast a bunch of coffee to a certain level (generally lighter than for espresso), grind it to a specific courseness, and then let it steep in hot water (not boiling) for a set period of time. Then breaking through the crust of grinds on the top and inhaling deeply the aromas of the brew, and drawing out as much detail as you can about the nose, before slurping it as you would if you were tasting wine. Aerating the coffee across your palate and assessing the acidity, body, and length of finish etc.

The cupping competition is designed to be a high speed spectacle that mirrors this tradition. Each competitor is given 8 sets of 3 cups. 2 of the cups in each set are the same coffee, and one is different. The point then is to guess the odd one out, in as fast a time as possible.

The winner of the world cupping championships last year scored 8 out of 8 correct in less than 1 1/2 minutes. That’s 24 tastes of coffee in under 90 seconds… and 100% accuracy on what he was tasting.
Whilst I doubt I’ll ever be in that league, I’ll explain the method I use for this competition (If you can call it a method).

How I do it
Basically I taste the first cup in a set, slurp it across my palate and look for one single defining character of that coffee. Some coffees are predominantly sour, some particularly bitter, others are really earthy, or acidic, or just have some weird kind of funk to them. I then use that one characteristic to match against the other cups. If the next cup has it too, then they are likely to be the same, if the next cup doesn’t, then test the third, if the third has it, bingo. You can also try and use things like the heat profile of steam coming out of cups, and the colour of the brewed coffee if you need a little help. Though often it’s just more confusing.

So in a sense, you’re really not tasting coffee at all. You’re pulling out one flavour component that you can use to match against. Of course being a professional coffee taster, those flavour components are going to be a lot more apparent to someone who does it every day than to a weekend cupping warrior. But the concept is still the same. Of course the problem arises when the coffees all start to taste like each other, or when your mind starts to wander, and the taste you were matching against suddenly slips from your mind.

So how did I do ?
Well, not bad, but not good enough to take out the win this year. I was dead certain of the first set, which I pushed out after only one sip of each cup, and later found out I had it wrong. Which still confuses me as to how I could be so certain, but then these things happen. I managed to get 5 out of 8 sets right in a little over 4 minutes. Pipped by a stirling performance by non other than barista to the stars Ben Bicknell, who managed an outstanding 7 out of 8. A host of other competitors also came in with 5 out of 8 actually. So perhaps we’re all just talented :)

For the record, here are the results from the two days of competition:

Barista Competition Final Results

1st: Mark Chandler from 5 Senses Coffee / WA Barista Academy 546.5 points
2nd: Jespa Bood from Ristretto 454.5 points
3rd: Charles Stuart from Rocketfuel 453.0 points

Latte Art Final Results

1st: Kim Godleman from 5 Senses Coffee
2nd: Dale Fewson from Café 54
3rd: Natalie Donaldson from Epic Espresso

Cupping Competition Final Results

1st: Ben Bicknell from 5 Senses Coffee 7/8 in 3 mins 58 secs
2nd: Angela Kowalczyk from Epic Espresso 5/8 in 3 mins 32 secs
3rd: Matt O’Donohue (that’s me!) Executive Producer of Abstract Gourmet 5/8 in 4 mins 7 secs

W.A Barista Competition – Winner

W.A Barista Comp 2009 W.A Barista Comp 2009

Just a quick update with some photos and to announce that Mark Chandler of the WA Barista Academy has taken out this years WA Barista Competition. Mark had an excellent routine and amongst a small but quality field came out on top to take the win.

Mark signature drink of a pear puree, blueberry reduction and espresso with beetroot dust on top was both tasty and well constructed, and his overall routine and technique were enough to put him over the line.

Great effort this year by all the baristas though, who despite the hurried time frame, came together to put in some fantastic performances.

I was lucky (?) enough to judge all 9 competitors over the course of the day, and despite being massively over caffeinated now, really enjoyed the day. Big thanks to Ben Bicknell for pulling it together, the rest of the judges, runners, helpers, and competitors, and current Australian barista champ (and runner up in the WBC) Dave Makin for swinging over to lend a hand with judging and keeping things in check.

Look for more photos from the latte art and cupping competition tomorrow !

2009 WA Barista Competition

Hazels espresso Testing Jen's capps

The W.A Barista Competition is happening again this coming weekend. This one has snuck up on a lot of people, but it’s still definitely on and definitely happening. You might be a little confused as to why the 2009 competition is being run in late 2008, and you wouldn’t be the only one. But due to the World Barista Championship changing their scheduling to run earlier in the year, all the of the state and national heats needed to be pushed forward so that we could have them all run in time for the World finals.

Your support and involvement is still very much needed. So if you’re in Perth, and have a love of good quality coffee, then come down to the event and check it out ! Details are as follows:

AustralAsian Specialty Coffee Association – 2009 WA Barista, Latte Art and Cupping Championships

When: 22nd and 23rd November 2008
Where: Mt Hawthorn Community Hall, 197 Scarborough Beach Road, Mt Hawthorn

The WA Championship Circuit is here again! With an early Australian national finals in January 2009, the AASCA WA Barista, Latte Art and Cupping Championships will be held on the 22nd and 23rd of November 2008.

Open to any resident of WA, the 3 championships offer a range of formats for the coffee professional to show their prowess, whether it be by showcasing their unique signature drink in the Barista Championships, pouring an immaculate milk design in the Latte Art Championships or demonstrating their understanding of the taste of coffee in the Cupping Championships!

This year’s competitions will be held at the Mt Hawthorn Community Hall with events proceeding over both the Saturday and Sunday. Entry to the event is free for spectators providing a great insight into the ‘behind the bar’ environment where coffee is crafted, tasted and presented. Come along and be part of the booming specialty coffee scene in Western Australia!

For more information about competing or judging in the Barista, Latte Art or Cupping Championships, email wa@aasca.com or phone 0439 511 881.


Ben Bicknell
Email: vicepresident@aasca.com
Phone: 0439 511 881

2008 WA Web Awards Dinner

* Beef fillet with wilted greens, pancetta wrapped asparagus and potato gratin stack

Excuse the break in the custard like flow of posts about Europe for this little bit of news from the home front.

I was recently fortunate enough to be nominated as a finalist in the WA Web Awards, and funnily enough actually came away with the winning entry in the blog category for this year. Yay blogs ! This explains the new little piece of bling on the sidebar of the site, and the new found skip in my step (that my real work is slowly trying to crush out of me).

The awards night was a rather lavish affair held at the UWA Club, on the grounds of my lovely former university, where I spent far too long doing very little, and rarely anything that could be even remotely considered good eating (unless you have a penchant for mock chicken pies in dubious creamy sauces).

Nothing quite so horrid on display at this event though. I started in style arriving by limo with many salubrious members of the Perth web and twitter community. Getting things going with some tasty and some not so tasty sparkly bubbles.

Table top goodness

Then on to the event to be greeted with two of my favourite things. Complimentary wine, and classic table top arcade games with endless credits ! After a brief smackdown with the ever dexterous Luis, I realised I had met my match at Galaga, but still reigned supreme at Miss Pacman (You can draw your own conclusions as to what that means).

On to the events. Before we’d even had a bite to eat the first categories were drawn. The student prize and then the blog category. A slight sense of dread coming over me as I heard my name called out, realising that I had no speech prepared whatsoever. Fortunately a few glasses of champagne and a general ability to talk crap on command served me right, and after thanking my designer Teresa, and pondering that I never thought I’d win an award for being a bad dinner guest… It was back to the business of eating.

Tomato soup

The soup course was fairly bland to be honest. The two choices of pumpkin soup and tomato soup were fairly safe, but I guess you’d call them sure fire classics. Once I’d added a fair dose of salt and pepper to my pumpkin soup it was quite tasty. Though a vaguely unsettling creamy concoction constantly threatened to settle on the top if I left it alone for too long. The tomato soup I tried was a little more robust, which what tasted like actual tomatoes in it (always a good sign a large catered events).

A few more awards and lots of claps and LOL’s. The 5 Senses crew taking out both categories they were finalists in. An excellent effort for Jordan their web developer and the rest of the crew responsible for feeding the info through on the site.

Mains were then served, and although I’m not sure I actually got a choice in the matter, ended up with the steak. Now cooking at large functions is hard. Cooking well at large functions is even harder. Cooking steak well at large functions is nigh on impossible, and in my brief career as an awards night attendee has never actually happened. Until this night.

Beef fillet with wilted greens, pancetta wrapped asparagus and potato gratin stack

Imagine my joy when after being presented with the next available dish by an overworked wait staff, I cut in to reveal a perfectly cooked medium rare piece of beef fillet. It was served with some pancetta wrapped asparagus that had both bite and flavour, and a little stack of potato gratin, that made a lovely cheesy accompaniment. The other option for the night was a salmon fillet, which I didn’t get to try, but the ones next to me looked great too. The vegetarian option looked good too, and not the standard vegetarian lasagne mess that so often discerning vegos are forced to choke down.

Mini Pavlova dessert

Finally, dessert was a stack of mini pavlovas with a berry couli and a little chocolate stick. Light airy, and with a casual mashmallowy texture. Everything a good pavlova should be, without the dreaded moisture sapping dryness that can so often afflict this classic dish loved by Kiwis and Aussies alike (though we all know who came up with it :) ).

The night didn’t end there of course. A round of 5 Senses brewed coffee and as much more wine as could be haggled from the staff who had probably had enough of a few hundred rowdy nerds by that point, and it was time to hit the town. Sated by what can only be described as a marvellous achievement in large scale dining.

So thanks for everyone who continues to come back to this site, despite my complete inability to stick to any kind of schedule, and I hope I can continue to produce things that you all like to read, however badly worded and inappropriately punctuated they, may be… :)

Dover to Calais

Not food *

Well at least the weather was nice. You may have been wondering exactly how I made it to Paris from London after Eurostar was shut down due to the fire in the tunnel the very day I was supposed to be boarding it ? (or you may not actually care at all). Well after a customary session of moping and cursing the world at my lack of luck, I gathered all my steely determination and guile about me for the long road ahead. I was going to Paris, I would be in Paris… I was destined for Paris. Also I had a non-refundable hostel booking that I didn’t want to pay for.

First I checked for airfares. Finding out after a brief search that the cheapest airfare I could get at short notice would be around £400 (!!). My next option was the ferry, which sounded like it could be a great way to go. £14 pounds for a ticket from Dover to Calais, and a leisurely cruise across the channel full of wonderful sights. Nautical adventures ahoy !

So the adventure began at 9am on Saturday morning, after a rather boisterous Friday night I boarded the tube to London Bridge a little worse for wear, and got an overland train from London Bridge to Dover. 2 hours later I arrive at the Dover train station, then wait for a bus to take me to the Dover ferry terminal.

Another hour and a half wait at the ferry terminal before the ferry left and I was fortunate enough to enjoy the company of what must have been the angriest man in Britain, working behind the counter of Cafe Ritazza. I didn’t want a coffee, nothing on earth could have made order a coffee from him. I was however macabrely intrigued by his ability to dump the portafilter basket into a bin full of coffee grinds every single time he knocked the spent coffee out. In fact making it more and more filthy each time as he never bothered to wipe it.

Quite frankly put, it was the dirtiest most disgusting coffee machine I’ve ever seen. If the look of it wasn’t enough to scare you off, then the guy swearing audibly each time someone ordered a coffee was a pretty clear indication that it wasn’t going to be good.

Being that I was starving, and had yet to each anything since I woke up, I figured I’d try my luck with a sandwich from the pre-prepared supply behind the cafe counter.

“What type of roll is that one ?” I asked, pointing to a rather nondescript item wrapped in foil.

“No idea, but it’s all we got left” was the gruntingly abrupt response.

“Well I guess I’ll have that one then” I surmised.

He then proceeded to manhandle what I had now determined was a “sub” of some description out of it’s foil and throw it onto a sandwich press. All the while swearing and muttering to himself, cursing all and sundry for putting him in the unenviable position of having to serve people food, a job he was clearly not cut out for.

A few minutes go by, and he slides the now partially warmed “sub” into a bag and flings it across the counter to me. Shortly after this point I made a note in my little food travel diary.

“Cafe Ritazza disgusting coffee machine, angry man, filthy sausage roll type thing. Trying luck with vending machine next time”

I doubt truer words have never been spoken about that establishment.

So finally we board the ferry. Well actually we board a bus to take us to the ferry. The ferry ride was pleasant enough. Although they aren’t entirely equipped to deal with people who don’t have cars. As such there is nowhere to leave your luggage. Which meant I was dragging my bags around for a good 2 1/2 hours, or however long it took to get there.

Time began to stand still somewhere in the middle of the channel. Suddenly the realisation came upon me that I would actually be in country where English was not the common language, and I now began to regret fast forwarding through most of the “French Foundations” CD’s my good friend Alex had lent me to study up on, and hoping my year 10 French lessons would all come flooding back to me.

The scene at Calais ferry port was straight out of Lost in Translations. Hundreds of confused, angry, and disoriented tourists trying to make some sense of where they were, and how they were supposed to get to Paris from here.

I was of the school of thought that everything would work itself out in due course. So whilst American tourists screamed staccato broken French into mobile phones to secure train tickets and hotel transfers. I just sat on the bus and followed the signs. It seemed to give them a sense of empowerment to know that they had some control over what was happening, but in reality, we were all on the same boat, all catching the same bus, the same trains, and arriving at the same time in Paris.

So I secured a ticket to Paris on the train, which would go via Lille, running because everyone else was and then realising it didn’t leave for another 20 minutes. The train was pretty nice, and I somehow managed to “accidentally” end up in first class by not reading my ticket properly. It also didn’t help that the train was 30 carriages long, and I really couldn’t be bothered walking to the one I was meant to be in. The ticket inspector however, was happy to point out my mistake and direct me ten carriages forward to where I was supposed to be.

Arriving at Gare du Nord at 9pm on Saturday night was a little shock to the system. It felt like I’d arrived in the ghetto, as a group of young guys walked past yelling at people with giant muzzled alsatians on chains at their sides. No signs of foie gras or caviar in this enclave.

So finally I find a metro map, get a ticket, and haul my bags on board. Disembarking at Jules Joffrin metro stop, the closest to Le Montclair Monmartre, my hostel of choice for the stay. All I can say is that a tiny crappy room with a bed in it had never looked so good after the day I’d had. Still I hadn’t eaten. After leaving at 9am from London and arriving in Paris at 9pm, It had been a long day, but it wasn’t yet over. The Paris air (which does not smell half as bad as anyone tells you) was full of life and energy. 10pm would see every restaurant in Perth closed for the night, but in Paris, things were just starting to happen.