Australia’s Coffee Greats Win Big at the 2015 Melbourne International Coffee Expo’s (MICE) 4th annual forum comes to a close
BY SHANNY SENA
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE
‘Which horse are you betting on?’ This was the buzz phrase being echoed all day. And though it’s the wrong time of year betting on horses at the Melbourne Cup, you wouldn’t be wrong in thinking that the Australian National Barista Competition was a horse race all its own.
The past four years have seen Matt Perger and Craig Simon neck and neck, alternating who wins the honor of representing Australia at the World Barista Championship (WBC). The expectation for this year at the competition ”held in conjunction with the Mel was no different. So when Sasa Sestic, was awarded first place, the crowd erupted in a deafening roar of surprise and joy.
Sasa, founder of Ona Coffee in Canberra had made it to the finals for the last few years, and placed third in the nationals last year. This year, Sasa was fully invested. He tripled his practice time to over 300 hours, and enlisted the help guidance of two of the industry’s big guns, former U.K. Barista Champion John Gordon and reigning WBC champ Hidenori Izaki.
Sasa’s coffee was produced in Colombia by Camilo Marizalde. In his routine, Sasa told the story of Camilo’s passion for innovative farming with a focus on irrigation and fertilization, and experimenting with new processing techniques, building on inspiration from wine making. Camilo has structures built on his farm that are not unlike greenhouses to protect his coffee trees from sunburn. This additional shade along with processing is said to have produced 4% more sugars in the coffee, resulting in a sweeter coffee with a ˜sparkling citric acidity.’
The Latte Art trophy was awarded to Caleb Cha who represented Cafenatics. He was so overcome by raw emotion that he could barely get a word out after accepting his award. It felt strange to be standing there, pointing my camera at him and recording what I felt was such an intense and moving moment that nearly pushed me to tears just by being there, surrounded by waves of emotion.
The Brewers Cup was also won by a newcomer this year. Dane Oliver flew home from his current residence at La Cabra in Denmark to compete in the State and National competitions. He competed with the Gesha Cerra Azul from the Cafe La Esperanza producers in Colombia.
The Cup Tasters winner was Harry Ko from Melbourne’s De Clieu. He had the biggest fan base in the crowd out of all the other competitors present. He was the last to finish all 8 samples, choosing to compete with deliberation and accuracy rather than speed. He was truly shocked to find that he was the champion, and seemed a little overwhelmed by the sheer volume of sound aimed at him.
Coffee in Good Spirits was won by a brand-new competitor, 19-year-old Lucas Woods from Coffee Lab in Canberra. He was so baffled that he didn’t realize he had won the competition. In a state of disbelief, it barely registered with him when Ross Quail told him that he was the winner and was handed his trophy. It was Lucas who brought inspiration back to the competition arena this year.
Competition in the Australian Nationals has been incredibly tough for the past few years, with the same players clawing their way through the ranks, eyes on the Gold Tamper. But the fresh faces this year and their undeniable excitement and joy at winning made this one of the best competitions I have had the privilege to watch.
Shanny Sena works in sales and training for Reverence Coffee Roasters in Melbourne, Australia. She has experience in barista competitions, has run and owned her own cafés and coffee brands, and worked for several top Australian roasters. She loves motorcycles, her two puppy dogs, and her husband, not always in that order.