True confession: I was unfamiliar with Sasa Sestic until he won the Australian Barista Championship four weeks ago. But thanks to my pal Shanny Sena, a barista and cafe owner in Melbourne, I got up to speed quickly.
Here are some things you have to know about Sasa:
1) He beat both Matt Perger and Craig Simon in this year’s Australian Barista Championship. Yes, the same Matt Perger and Craig Simon who have placed in the World Barista Championships ”Matt coming in second in 2013 ”many times.
2) He’s been in the finals of the Australian Barista Championship ”arguably among the three most difficult national championship in the world ”for the past 3 years.
3) Since December 2014, he has spent 60 to 70 hours a week practicing for competition. Oh, except for the 10 days he spent with the coffee producer he worked with for this, Camillo from Colombia.
4) He brought more than 400 kilos of luggage to Seattle for the WBC.
5) He opened his company, Ona Coffee, 7 years ago, but he’s competed six times in the last seven years.
6) His coach for this competition? Hidenori Izaki. That’s the same Hidenori Izaki who is the reigning World Barista Champion.
7) He is an Olympic athlete in handball. Now that’s just cool.
When Hide told me that Sasa was an Olympic athlete, I said, “Oh, now it all makes sense.” Sasa is the kind of person who makes things happen. He keeps running, he goes faster, he tries harder, he practices longer. He. Makes. Things. Happen.
He explained the work that his producer partner did to make the coffee particularly exceptional very well: he brought visuals! He actually brought beautiful, handmade models of coffee trees under the special shade systems developed by Camillo to use in a greenhouse to make positive his coffees have ultimate sweetness. I love a good diorama, and this thing was rad.
Never seen this before: He used Shiraz grapes in his signature drink: I mean, I almost feel like I can imagine exactly what that tastes like ”it’s so distinctive.
I came away from watching Sasa over this weekend thinking the same thing again and again: I want to know this person. I want to learn from him. I want to implant his work ethic in my brain. But perhaps the most memorable thing Sasa did? Leave his post performance interview to hug Camillo. He’s not here for fame ”he doesn’t care about that. He’s here because of that coffee, that man, and that passion. You can’t help but respect the hell out of that.