The post that needed to be written, and the actual reason I went to Melbourne in the first place (because unfortunately noone will pay me to eat for a living yet). The finals of the Australian Barista Championships.
There has been much said about the competition this year, and the overall standard of the competitors. I was fortunate enough to be able to judge the competitors in the Open Heats, which were run before the Australian Barista Competition finals. The Open Heats are basically the last chance for any barista who hadn’t made it through the state heats to get into the final.
The competitors were all very strong, with Con Haralambopolous coming out on top despite running over time and having to redo the shots for his cappucinos. Which was an outstanding performance.
During the finals I basically tried to keep out of everyone elses way, whilst doing a bit of running, table setup, and then taking photos of competitors from as close a vantage point as I could. It was a day of very tough competition. I personally could not pick who was going to win, even after having observed each person from up close. The level of technical competence and slick performance from each barista was quite overwhelming.
Of course my personal favourite and all round local hero was Jen Murray of W.A. Jen Put in perhaps one of the best performances I’ve seen her give (and I’ve seen this routine many times), pulling out some fantastic looking shots, as well as a stellar signature drink, which was good enough for her to take out third place ! She also got my vote for most awesome soundtrack, which was the Somersault soundtrack by Decoder Ring…very cool.
Second place in the finals was the ever consistent Con Haralambopolous from the Open Heats. Con is what I’d call the quiet achiever in the scene. He’s a down to earth guy who just does his thing in a truly honest way. His routine was much smoother than the heats, and he was always going to be a contender with an interesting molecular gastronomy take with a coffee soil in his signature drink.
The winner this year, was David Makin. David’s routine was slick and polished, and although I couldn’t see a lot of difference performance-wise between him and the other competitors, the results in the cup clearly indicated there was a big one, with an over 100 point difference between him and the rest of the field. He also finished in 14 minutes, a full one minute under the allotted competition time, which is normally unheard of. He’ll go on to Copenhagen later this year to compete in the world finals.
The other big event of the finals was Australian Coffee Cupping Championships, which I had another crack at, after a promising result in the Perth heats, getting 6 out of 8 cups and being pipped by one.
The finals were another story altogether though, with some seriously tough triangle tests to deal with.
One competitor in the early rounds scored 0 out of 8, which made me feel a little sick.
I managed to hit 4 out of 8 in my heat though, finishing in a mostly respectable 3 and a half minutes. The winner of the heats though, was the lovely Emily Oak, who hit 6 out of 8 to take them out.
So on to the finals and Perth girl Catherine Ferrari, taking on local fave Toshi from St Ali, and Emily Oak. It was a fierce comp and Catherine was on fire. Taking out 6 out of 8 cups to win the day, and become the Australian Coffee Cupping Champion. A fantastic result for Catherine and her very proud mum who had come over to watch the competition with her.
And so after some sustained partying and a few too many drinks, the greater coffee loving community of Australia slinked back to their respective cities to rest their weary heads after a weekend where too much coffee was barely enough.
Cheers to all the great people I met over the course of the weekend. Nim, Luca, Emily, Emma, Aaron, Syd (and your awesome photos), Mel, Bruno, and all the other judges and helpers who did such a fine job.