Barista Champion of Australia

Editor’s note: As we approach the beginning of the 2014 World Barista Championship, which takes place in Rimini, Italy, June 9 “12, at the SCAE’s World of Coffee event, we would like to introduce you to the National Barista Champions who all worked incredibly hard to earn a position in this preeminent coffee contest. Profiles of all 54 competitors will appear on Barista Magazine’s blog between Monday, June 2, and Monday, June 9, and can all be accessed under the category header “WBC 2014 Rimini.”

Craig Simon
Think Tank Coffee

Australia's Craig Simon
Australia’s Craig Simon

Coach: Holly Bastin

About you: Craig Simon is a 2 time Australian Barista Champion and runs his own consulting business œThink Tank Coffee  where he teaches and works collaboratively with Ninety Plus Coffee and Alpha Dominche. He also works for Veneziano Coffee Roasters as a barista and roasting trainer and with their direct relationship farmers to source green coffee. Craig has spent the last 6 years working collaboratively with two farmers in particular, Emilio Lopes of El Manzano and Joseph Brodsky of Ninety Plus Gesha Estates to make better and better coffee. Through these relationships he has pushed into the uncomfortable realm of experimentation, learned to trust his instincts, accepting failure, and embracing success, as he feels this is what makes coffees exceptional. He’s constantly asking “what’s next?” From this has formed lasting friendships and a constant joy in sharing coffee.
Craig’s credentials:
2012 & 2014 Australian Barista Champion
2012 Victorian Cupping Champion
Certified Q Grader
SCAA Lead Instructo

How many years have you worked with coffee or in the coffee industry?
10 years

Before coffee, did you work in a different job or industry, or what did you study in school?
B Mus Jazz – full time touring jazz drummer for 10 years. Studied mechanical engineering.

What was your first amazing experience with coffee?
My first amazing experience was spending a week in 2011 with Emilio Lopez on his farm El Manzano in El Salvador. We cupped every lot coming off the drying patio every day for that week. I think something like 450 individual cups of coffee were cupped. Along with that we talked about coffee and farming and have developed a really great friendship.

Who has been your greatest influence in coffee? Why?
It is hard to narrow it down to one specific person who has influenced me but everyone who I meet who is dedicated to trying to make the best coffee experience possible whether, farmer or roaster or barista have all had an impact on how I go about it. But a few people who have been very generous in offering a lot of valuable advice and support are Emilio Lopez, David Makin, Pete Licata, and Joseph Brodsky.

What would you like to see change about the coffee industry/community?
I would like us not to lose perspective of focusing on making great beverages and experiences for the customer who is enjoying the coffee.

Name a coffee luminary (famous person) you would like to meet, and why:
The person who comes up with the perfect espresso grinder

Name a barista you admire, and why:
I admire every barista who gets on the competition stage be it regional, national or world level. It takes a lot of courage to get up in front of your peers and submit your skill and knowledge for scrutiny. The value and knowledge gained makes us all serve better coffee and inspire the next generation of coffee professionals to strive to do it better and better.

Do you have a favorite customer? If so, tell us about him or her.
I like all of my customers.

Besides your own cafe, what cafe do you think everyone should visit?
Admiral Cheng-Ho in Abbotsford Melbourne.

Which coffee producing country you would like to visit, and why?
Ethiopia, I have had some amazing coffees from there and I think it would be a very spiritual coffee experience

What are your interests outside of coffee?
I design and build and race cars, I cook, I paint, I play the drums and guitar

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Consulting, Training, Roasting, making coffee, and working with producers. I love getting the chance to explore the possibilities of coffee in all the disciplines from the farm through to the customer. I have spent the last 6 years working collaboratively with two farmers in Particular, Emilio Lopes of El Manzano and Joseph Brodsky of Ninety Plus Gesha Estates I see myself doing more of the same as it is incredibly enjoyable and rewarding.

Is there anyone you would like to thank or who helped you prepare for the WBC?
I would like to thank Pete Licata and Holly Bastin, my coaches this year for their generosity, great advice, support and friendship. I’d like to thank my team at Veneziano Coffee. Craig Dickson, Pat Connolly, Jack Allisey, Jen Marks, Jade Jennings and Erin Sampson. I’d like to thank Joseph and Steve of Ninety Plus Coffee and Compak and Diedrich for their equipment support.

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