W.A Barista Competition 2008

Judges rate cappucinnos Espresso tasting

The W.A Barista Competition for 2008 is on again. This year being held in the Perth Town Hall in conjunction with the City of Perth good food month. It’s been an excellent event so far, we’ve just completed the first day of competition with 12 competitors putting their skills on display.

This year is a bit different for me however, because I’ve gotten involved in the judging side of things. A bit daunting personally, but definitely an excellent experience so far. I was a little unsure of how I’d go, but after passing through a full sensory evaluation test quite well, and getting a lot of good practice seeing how the marks are given and the competition run, I’m quite happy with how things have turned out.

There is a lot of responsibility on the judges to be fair and reasoned in their assessment of each of the competitors performances, but the score sheets are fortunately (for us) quite specific on how we need to mark for each component.

From a judging point of view, I obviously can’t give anything away just yet, but I can say that the quality of competition has been great so far. We’ve seen some very polished performances, some excellent espresso, deliciously creamy cappuccinos, and beautiful and inventive signature drinks.

Nic's signature drink ingredients

The competition continues tomorrow (Sunday 16th March) with a final 6 competitors ready to go before the overall barista champion for W.A is crowned, and sent over to represent us in the National competition in Melbourne later in the year (and hopefully the world championship in Copenhagen, Denmark too).

Following the barista competition will be a latte art smackdown (!). Basically a free for all competition where anyone with some latte art skills can pit themselves against all comers for milk based barista street cred.

The final event of the day will be the Australian Coffee Cupping Competition. Basically a fun competition in which a competitor has to pick the odd one out of a 8 sets of 3 coffees. The coffees are prepared in a filter style, and a competitor has to taste them all to determine which one isn’t the same as the others. The winner is whoever finishes first and gets the most right.

I’m going to have a crack at the cupping competition, only because I’m slightly buoyed by my sensory skills test, and although I’d have no chance dealing with the intensity of the barista championship, figure I can at least be coordinated enough to get a spoon full of coffee from the cup to my mouth.

If you’re at all into coffee, and want to check out the great things happening in the Perth coffee scene, I’d definitely encourage you to come down and check out the exciting finale of the competition. Perth Town Hall at the corner of Barrack and Hay St.

Now if I can just stop jittering for a while and get some sleep tonight I might just make it through tomorrow :)

W.A Barista Competition wrap up

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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.

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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:

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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.

W.A Barista Championships

Heart

Just passing on a message here folks. The W.A Barista Championships are nearing, very close in fact. So here are a few of the details from the man himself, Ben Bicknell of the W.A Barista Academy, who is a representative of AASCA, and organiser of the competition.

W.A baristas, this is your chance to show your skills and get some great insight on the only competition that will give you access to compete in the Australian and World barista championships.

Get on down and get involved !

Hi,

Bringing you the latest event on the Coffee Industry Calendar of WA:
The official W.A. heats for the AASCA Australian Barista Championships!!

This is just a quick message to give you the initial information about the AASCA WA Barista Championships (WABC). If you are a coffee distributor, coffee roaster or just know of other people who may be interested in this event, feel free to forward this email on.

This year the WABC is moving to a bigger, slicker and more accessible location of the City of Perth Town Hall (crn of Barrack and Hay Street).

The event will be held over two days on Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th of March. An information session consisting of a general run through, tips for the competitions and the opportunity to practice on the competition espresso machine will be held around a week before the competition (possibly Sunday 25th February). Additional practice sessions may be available throughout the week preceding the competition.

Any resident within Western Australia is eligible to enter. The winner of the WABC will secure their place in the AASCA Australian Barista Championships on April 29th, the winner of which will represent the nation at the World Barista Championships in Tokyo, Japan later in the year.

The WABC is an independent competition run by the AustralAsian Specialty Coffee Association (AASCA), a national non-profit organization. See www.aasca.com for more details.

If you would like further information, would like a copy of the rules and score sheets or would like an application form, visit the AASCA website: www.aasca.com. Also, feel free to either give me a call on 0439 511 881, email me at ben@baristaacademy.com.au or alternatively email AASCA at enquiries@aasca.com.

Further information about the event and prizes will be forthcoming.

Cheers,
Ben Bicknell
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Secretary for the AASCA Australian Barista Guild
W.A. Convener for the AustralAsian Specialty Coffee Association

WA Latte Art Competition

The Pour

Last Sunday I headed down to the WA Barista Academy to have a chat with Ben and a few of the more discerning baristas and latte artists in Perth about the upcoming WA Latte Art Competition. Once again an AASCA sponsored event, and part of the lead up to the Australian and World Latte Art Competitions to be held later on this year.

The format of the competition is basically as such: You need to make 3 types of 2 identical drinks. One is a latte (flat white / monk head / foamless cappucino), the other is an espresso macchiato (piccolo latte), and the final is a drink of your own creation. Then points are allocated to the taste of the drinks, the quality of the designs, and the similarity between both patterns (so you can prove it wasn’t a fluke the first time), and a bunch of other factors.

Macchiato Art

So it was a good day, and I got to meet a few more of the cool people that make up the Perth coffee scene, like Clare from the newly opened “Tiger, Tiger” in the city, Corey from Core (soon to be Epic Espresso), Megan from Core, Jeremy (WA Barista Champion), and Dom of “My Favourite Perth Cafes” and “How to Poach an Egg” comments fame on this very website.

After the formal procedings we got into “Barista Jam” mode, and I made a mockery of the Mazzer Robur by adjusting it three times in the wrong direction…before realising what the hell I was doing and finally getting some decent shots after about 20 minutes. Then attempted many poor excuses for latte art that Ben assures me could be good enough to use in the competition, which according to him I have a good chance of performing well in, when you take into account nerves of competitors and the like… but I will need to start churning out something a hell of a lot better than my recent efforts for me to want to take the step and compete.

I’m more of a big fish in a little pond kind of guy…

Latte

W.A Barista Competition

Official

So over Easter I was forunate (or unfortunate depending on your point of view) enough to be asked to help out with the running of the Western Australian Barista Competition. It was held at the Western Australian Barista Academy, and co-ordinated by my good mate Ben.

I was a runner for the day, which meant i was running (or ambling…with a bit of a sashay every now and then) around after the competitors, helping them get their competition spaces set up with cups/trays/saucers/cultery, and anything else they wanted to use.

The format of the competition is pretty simple. The baristas had to make 4 espressos, 4 capucinnos, and 4 signature drinks.

The signature drink is basically an espresso based drink of the competitors own creation, and believe me when i say there are a lot of creative people out there.

Each competitor gets 15 minutes to prepare their workspace, then 15 minutes to make their drinks and serve them, then 15 minutes to clean up.

They are judged by a panel of 4 sensory judges, who are testing for flavour, body, acidity, mouthfeel of the coffee, and 2 technical judges who are watching them pull the shots, use the grinder, and doing a few shot timings etc, to see how quick its coming out.

This is (essentially) the first time a competition of this nature and composition has been run in WA. In the past other company’s have run their own flavour of competition, but none of them have been AASCA (AustralAsian Specialty Coffee Association) approved. AASCA abides by all the WBC (World Barista Championship) rules and regulations, and also requires a completely independant group of judges.

So there were probably about 15 or so competitors over the course of the day. Lots of nerves, lots of good coffee, lots of amazing signature drinks, an occasional spillage, and a lot of encouragement from the crowd.

All in all it was a great day, and it panned out like so:

1st Place: Jeremy Hulsdunk, Muffin Break
2nd Place: Nolan Hirte, Lemon Espresso
3rd Place: Vanessa Moore, Core Espresso
4th Place: Tim Grey-Smith, X-Wray

Must say 1st place was very much a dark horse. If you’re not familiar with Muffin Break, they are basically a muffin shop, that sells…umm, muffins… and stuff. Pastries, sandwiches, things like that. They are not exactly known for their coffee, so for a guy who works there to win the state heats of the Australia Barista Competition is pretty friggin good. I watched Jeremy’s performance though, and must say he knows his stuff. I believe his family owns the Muffin Break store that he works in, which probably explains why his barista skills are not being put to use in a more well known cafe, but if anything it proves that you can get a decent coffee wherever you go… it all depends on the barista :)

Congrats to Nolan and Vanessa too, Nolan gave what i thought was easily the performance of the day… throwing in a few behind the back bar tender moves with a sweet Kiwi dub soundtrack (Kora i believe).

So a great day all up, met some lovely people, chatted and hob knobbed with all sorts of WA coffee & food personalities, and saw some excellent skills on display.

I’ll hopefully get some more photos off Ben to post up.