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…


International Syndication

Well recently I was lucky enough to get my espresso cubes article picked up by slashfood.com, and now it seems that someone else has picked it up from there…

I must say, it’s rather strange seeing my photo and name attached to a post that is otherwise completely incomprehensible. So if anyone out there can translate Japanese for me, I would appreciate it.

More Espresso Videos

Another quick post of a short video I took of an extraction on my Rancilio Silvia espresso machine.

The shot is a little fast, basically because it was the first shot I pulled with a new blend of coffee that I roasted myself. So I’m still dialling in my grinder for the right length of shot for this blend.

Still it tastes quite nice… a sweet fruity front palate, good body, and a slightly winey lingering taste.

The blend was:

Panamaria Special A – 60%
PNG Serehini AX – 30%
Ethiopian Yirgacheffe – 10%

The coffee is about 3 days old at this point…and has very nice solid crema.

Latte are once again sucks… But I added it in because I’m filming them all these days anyway. I have no doubt whatsoever that the minute I put the camera down and try to pour another rosetta it will come out perfectly.

Latte Art Video: A brave new world

Ok, well i’m not sure if this is going to go anywhere or not, but I’m toying with the idea of doing some video blogging… Just short clips of various/random kitchen/food/me getting drunk and falling over comically type things. I’m aiming for somewhere in between Jamie Oliver’s trip to Italy, and the Funniest home video where the guy gets hit in the nuts with a stick.

So as a first effort, here is perhaps one of my crappiest ever efforts at pouring latte art. Not helped by the fact that I had to hold my phone with one hand, and normally use it to tilt the cup towards me a little… But no excuses…

So there you go… Video blogging… Feel free to let me know if this is in any way amusing/interesting/helpful/cathartic, and I may or may not continue.

To infinity and beyond !

Perth Food & Wine Festival

I love food and wine festivals. I love food and wine full stop (.) But even more so when all the nicest elements of both are organised into little booths with tooth picks and tasting glasses provided to sample and sip as I see fit.

This year the food and wine festival was held at the Perth Convention Centre (or Hayshed, as it is not particularly affectionately known). The setup was as per normal. Rows and rows of wine, olive oil, gourmet food, beer, magazines, people chopping things, and other random food based and food related products.

After talking to Ben beforehand and finding out that the Synesso Cyncra was going to be set up at the 5 Senses booth, that was our first point of call. The machine is sweet, a work of art in an industrial stainless steel finish, and a testament to engineers actually listening to what people want.

Synesso Cyncra

I was lucky enough to get to have a play on it, and despite over tamping, the shot came out pretty nice. The Synesso has paddles instead of switches, and when you push the paddle a little way across it starts preinfusion. This means that boiler water at line pressure is used to fill the basket. Once the puck is soaked with water and the first drip of coffee comes out, you push the paddle all the way across to full pressure, and watch perfectly balanced espresso flow out. For a novice like me to be able to pull shots like this, was unreal.

My Tamp
Synesso Cyncra
Naked pour on Cyncra
Dippin the tip in.
My pour
I made a rosetta !

Dragging myself away from the coffee machine, we wanted to get some food and then start tackling the different wineries that had their wares on display. Do you know how hard it was to actually get something substantial to eat at a food and wine fair ? Apart from small pieces of bread, cheese, and the odd cracker, actual food was few and far between. Fortunately an Indian place was serving some tasty curries, so we grabbed some of that, got our tasting glasses filled at the nearest wine stall, and lined our stomachs with vital solids.

The next 3 or 4 hours were pretty solid sampling.

We worked our way from one end of the convention centre to the other trying wines from as many places as we could. Stand out would have to be 3 Drops for their Semillon Sauvignon, and also their olive oil (even though we got told off for double dipping), Salitage‘s Pinot Noir, Charles Melton Nine Popes (always a classic), Bowen’s Cabernet Sauvignon, West Cape Howe Shiraz and West Cape Howe Viognier, and the only other I can remember at this stage was the Capel Vale Sangiovese and Nebbiolo. The Capel Vale was really nice actually and we ended up ordering a mixed case of Viognier, Shiraz Viognier, Nebbiolo, Tempranillo, and Sangiovese… I’m a sucker for a foreign name.

Other highlights for the day were running into Phou, a chef who works at the convention centre, and moonlights at the Pacific International Hotel. He’s originally from Melbourne and has worked all over Australia, and had lots of good things to say about working in the industry, and whether or not its worth it (which it is, as long as you’re willing to put in a lot of work).

We also managed to talk oysters with Jerry Fraser (oyster king of Perth), who gave us a few good tips on where to best ones come from, and how to take them (natural of course, with a little fresh native lime juice).
Jerry Fraser - Oyster King
Oysters - Freshly Shucked

I also picked up my own copy of Spice Magazine from their booth, and had a bit of a chat there.

Spice Mag !

Benny talks to Spice Mag

Then it was back to the 5 Senses booth for a farewall play on the Synesso (and to inadvertently run into the Pseudo Chef herself), before trudging out of the convention centre and merrily heading back home.

All in all a great day filled with lots of tasty morsels and friendly chats with the ever loving food and wine community of Perth (and the greater West Australian region). It’s on for the next coupld of days, so i may just have to go back for more :) I’d encourage anyone else to do the same.

My Favourite Perth Cafes

Just a quick list of caf�s in Perth that I think do great coffee, and/or have really nice food or atmosphere. The list is short, but mainly because since getting my own espresso machine, I don’t feel the need to go out as often to drink bad coffee, when I can make equally bad coffee at home (or much much better :) ).

So the list…

Core Espresso Under Allendale Square on St Georges Tce, currently owned by the effervescent Corey, a passionate man who knows his coffee. They use their own blend of coffee roasted by 5 Senses. Mainly caters for the business crowd, and as such they are only open Monday to Friday, and it’s all takeaway. Still, they are probably doing the best coffee in Perth at present, and love to chat with coffee geeks of all varieties. Core barista Vanessa recently came third in the WA Barista Competition, and everyone really knows their stuff. Espresso fans, your cause is not lost.

Lemon EspressoSt Quentins Ave, Claremont. Next to a dodgy looking Japanese takeaway shop is a simple green neon sign saying “CAFE”. I think its the last remnants of a previous failed venture, in the location now held by Nolan of Lemon Espresso. Nolan and Tess, manager and barista, came second and fourth respectively in the WA Barista Competition. The place oozes cool, and despite being filled with Claremont socialite wannabe’s, has a great relaxed vibe (in part because of Nolan’s collection of Kiwi dub albums). They too use a custom 5 Senses blend, and Nolan knows exactly how to make it sing. Try the pistachio nougat.

RocketfuelStirling Hwy, Nedlands (near corner of Broadway). Another custom 5 Senses blend (seeing a trend here?). These guys also do takeaway coffee only. The unique thing about Rocketfuel is that they have a funky drive through section. Yes i know, drive throughs are bad in most situations, but when you’re using great coffee, on excellent equipment (3 group LaMarzocco Linea), and you know how to make it well, then the drive through convenience is very worthwhile. These guys were the source of my morning coffee most days when I worked in the area, and I’d happily go back anytime. You pay by the shot, which makes sense really, and their mini pies got me through many a breakfastless morning.

VoyageWest Coast Hwy, Sorrento (down the road from Hillary’s). I’m more of a fan of the food at this place than the coffee. They use all organic produce which is always really fresh and tasty. I have driven the 45 minutes to get there on many occasions just to have the bacon and eggs. They use a Fair trade blend roasted by Toby’s Estate (from East Timor i think), which the first time I went was amazingly good, but hasn’t lived up to its own standards ever since. I’m a bit skeptical of how fresh it would be, considering Toby’s Estate is based in NSW… But depending on who makes it for you, it’s still a really nice cup.

Just Espresso Preston Point Rd, Como. I must admit that this only gets a light mention. I’ve only been here a couple of times, and have my doubts about it from a coffee geek point of view. The place looks really nice, and the wait staff and barista I chatted to were really friendly. The problem starts with the fact that the barista didn’t know when his coffee was roasted, and also couldn’t tell me what was in it, because he doesn’t know. The owner claims to have both fair trade coffee and a Cup of Excellence bean in the blend, amongst 7 types of beans in total… Which all just seems a bit off. Without saying which cup of excellence he’s using, from which year, and in what quantity, or which fair trade bean… then it all seems a bit empty. Having said that though, I ordered an espresso and was pleasantly suprised with how good it was. Not as complex as Core, but definitely very drinkable. Food and atmosphere were also nice.

Soto Espresso Beaufort St, Mt Lawley. I used to think the coffee at Soto was the best in Perth. It’s a hangout for funky Mt Lawley types (who are kind of cross between Leederville types and Subi types), which looks nice, and has a generally friendly vibe. They use Essenza coffee, which is roasted locally by Mena Samios in Mt Lawley. I’ve since moved on to other places where I prefer the coffee, but I still like Soto for a nice breakfast and a reasonable coffee. Coffee is really dependant on who is making it for you. A great barista can bring out a weak coffees best features (or smother its bad features with well textured milk), a poor barista will kill both the milk and the espresso, and tell you they’ve been doing it for years, so they know best. Not that this has happened at Soto, but I’m skeptical of any place that relies too much on reputation.

Other than those listed above, honorable mentions for MilkD in North Perth, Rosso on St Georges Tce, Tank under London Court, and of course the ever hip Cafe 130 in Leederville (where i am still the reigning Connect 4 champion).

Apologies to the majority of the cafe’s in Fremantle, which I never seem to make it to, and to anywhere else that has so far eluded my hawk-like radar.

Thats all I can think of for now… Suggestions are welcome in the comments, but hopefully this gives you an idea of a few nice places to go.

My Sweet Silvia…

Miss Silvia (on my cameraphone)

My Sweet Rancilio Miss Silvia…Has died. I think i left the steam switch on without realising and now the boiler has run dry and fizzled out. All I get is cold (so very very cold) water running out of my group head, and that makes for pretty dire espresso (or rather, no espresso at all). I’m too distraught for a more eloquent account of the situation, but trust me when I say that having anthropomorphised her into an actual being, its quite distressing to see her so sick. I’ve rung a couple of service companies, one of them can’t even look at her until next week, and the other I’m slightly dubious of due to past experience, but seem to know what they are doing. It’s times like this that I wish I hadn’t gotten 8% in my first year electrical engineering exam at Uni. They were confusing times, damn you Kirchoff!

If anything I guess it does give me an excuse to try out French Press coffee on a more than passing interest level. Which also gives me an excuse to start roasting again as well. Single origin coffee is not generally designed for espresso. This depends on the bean of course, but most espresso nuts are of the opinion that a single type of bean does not have the compexity required to make a well rounded shot of espresso, however in a French Press, you can really bring out some of those unique origin qualities that make coffee from different countries taste so good.

I have given up on roasting for a while now, as I find my beans aren’t up to scratch compared to some of the commercial blends I get to try out, so whilst it’s an interesting learning experience, why try to reinvent the wheel basically.

Hopefully Silvia will be back up and running soon though, ready to greet me each morning with a warm smile and a hearty puff from her steam wand, and this madness will all come to an end.

Your thoughts and prayers for her are appreciated in this troubling time.

Just got her back from the repair place, turns out that she had overloaded somehow, and all that needed to happen was to reset some overload switch/circuit inside. Which is kind of annoying in a way because thats something I should have looked for myself. Ahh well… I cleaned her off, removed the obligatory “serviced by some company” sticker that I had asked not to be put on, and cranked her up. All good, lovely espresso and great steam for milk. Gives me a chance to use some of my new Australian Fine China cups that I picked up cheap at their recent stocktake sale at Claremont Showgrounds, where I was manhandled by numerous old ladies stirred up into a bargain hunting frenzy by irresponsible spruikers wanting to clear an entire warehouse full of ceramics. It was like giving matches to a pyromaniac.

Anyway… situation is back to normal. Please return your seat to it’s original upright position.