Barista Champion of Canada

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.”

Ben Put
Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters

Canada's Ben Put
Canada’s Ben Put

Coach: Jeremy Ho

About you: This is my fifth year participating in barista competitions. I am a five time regional champion and I have placed second in Canada for the past three years. This is my first year as Canadian champion. Last year I had the pleasure of coaching Jeremy Ho, the 2012 Canadian Barista Champion, at the WBC in Melbourne, and I was the coach for the 2011 Canadian Cup Tasters Champion at the WBC in Vienna. I started as a barista at Phil & Sebastian in 2007. Currently I oversee all facets of our espresso, including developing roast profiles, tasting production, creating brew parameters, and programming espresso machines. I also do a small amount of barista training and work the occasional bar shift. This year I traveled to Panama and Costa Rica to visit farms, meet producers and select a coffee to compete with. My wife, Tara, has been directly involved in each of of the 14 competitions I have competed in.  I’m a big fan of Reg Barber, but this year I have chosen to use a custom ergonomic tamper designed by my brother.

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

Before coffee, did you work in a different job or industry, or what did you study in school?
I studied jazz performance in university and I still play music when I have the time.

How did you get started in coffee?
I started at Canadian chain where I taught myself how to pour latte art. After that I started to work at a more quality focused coffee shop where I learn the basics of espresso extraction. After a couple of years I started to work for Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters where my love for coffee was truly sparked.

What was your first amazing experience with coffee?
My first amazing experience with coffee was the first time I tasted a naturally processed Ethiopian. I couldn’t believe that a coffee could taste that fruity and ever since that experience I’ve had a soft spot for Ethiopian coffees.

Who has been your greatest influence in coffee? Why?
Phil Robertson and Sebastian Sztabzyb of Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters. They are constantly st to understand and improve every link in the coffee chain. Each year they create new experiments in harvesting, processing, transport, storage, roasting, and brewing and they feed the results from these tests into the next year. Their work ethic and ingenuity is incredible.

What would you like to see change about the coffee industry/community?
I would like to see baristas gain a deeper understanding of the coffee they serve–from the country characteristics, all the way to the farm’s unique story. It is often hard for a barista that doesn’t get to spend time in a roasterie to learn more about the coffees they serve and it is easy for the information that they do have to get lost in the day to day tasks of the cafes. As a barista learns more about a particular coffee, their enthusiasm and appreciation for that coffee grows and some of that enthusiasm and appreciation will reach customers.

Name a coffee luminary (famous person) you would like to meet, and why:
James Hoffmann. Through his blog, James has freely shared valuable information, asked new, thought-provoking questions and never strayed away from more controversial topics. It would be great to have a chance to talk coffee with him

Name a barista you admire, and why:
Jeremy Ho, the 2012 Canadian Barista Champion. Jeremy is one of the friendliest and most welcoming baristas that I have ever met. He has a constant excitement towards coffee and an insatiable thirst for knowledge. Jeremy’s example continually challenges me to be better.

Do you have a favorite customer? If so, tell us about him or her.
There are a handful of customers that have followed me as I have moved from cafe to cafe. Getting to serve a customer for 7+ years is a very special experience.

Besides your own cafe, what cafe do you think everyone should visit?
Coffee Collective in Copenhagen. Coffee Collective has been a must visit for me for a long time. When I finally had a chance to visit them I was not disappointed! Each of the three cafes had delicious coffee, friendly staff, and its own distinct vibe.

Which coffee producing country you would like to visit, and why?
Ethiopia. I would love to see the country that gave birth to coffee and have the opportunity to taste and understand the different unique flavor profiles that exist within each of the regions.

What are your interests outside of coffee?
Music, food, reading, and drinking things that are not coffee.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Still learning about roasting and brewing and hopefully getting my feet wet in a little bit of sourcing.

Is there anyone you would like to thank or who helped you prepare for the WBC?
Phil, Sebastian, Jeremy, Karine, Justin, Jeff, Ryan, and everyone else at Phil & Sebastian that helped me prepare for the competition. My wonderful wife, Tara for her support and encouragement.

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