I woke up this morning with the deep regret of tequila at 3am.
The early morning heatwave streamed into my tinderbox apartment and I hit the snooze a few times before realising that, yes, it was Saturday but no, I am no longer on holiday and I really needed to haul myself to St Kilda to witness one of the finest examples of Victorian Barista talent that I’ve ever seen.
I unfortunately arrived to the Town Hall at 10:30, missing the first three competitors. I managed to catch up with a couple and pick their brains about their routines, so alas, no photos for the first few. I also must apoligise about any misinformation that I may have written, it is a suprisingly difficult task to take notes and manage to get decent photographs also. There is also a distinct lack of any images of table settings as the stage for the competitors was towering over me and there wasn’t any live streaming this year to get a better view. Oh well, it really took the pressure off the guys in regards to not having a room of 200 people glaring at their shaky latte art.
2011 was once again, an enormous sausage fest. Matt Perger eloquently summed it up as, “Too many dicks on the dancefloor.” Charming. But it was really unparalleled, the pool of competitors has doubled in size. There were two reigning champions and a collection of place holders, all with excellent set ups, flawless tech skills and creative approaches to their 15 minutes of fame. The only disappointing outcome of this year, in my opinion was the number of competitors to have chosen the Guatemalan Santa Clara as their coffee. Sure, it gives the competitor much more ability to showcase their roasters talents but for a spectator, its can come off as specialty coffee being a one trick pony. There is so many amazing coffees to be had in Australia at the moment!
That being said, onward to the rundown.
John Vroom, Proud Mary:
From what I have gleaned, John comes from Canada is pretty new in Melbourne. He joined the Proud team and has been killing it there ever since. I was super impressed to hear that he had taken on the challenge of the competitions in such a new working environment. He used a blend of Guatemalan Santa Clara, Ethiopian Nekisse and a Sumatran that was hand sorted for defects over beers at the roastery in Footscray. Apparently it took them around 4 hours and they had to throw away around 50% of the original pile. That is dedication. He told me that his coffee tasted of butter toast with a chocolate finish and was rather well balanced. He also used an unhomogenized milk from Jonesies which was delicious.
His signature drink was a liquid breakdown of his grandmothers famous fruit pie. It included sugar, yeast, biscuits, vanilla, cream, nectarines, plums and juice. My God do I wish that I had been around to scoff that for breakfast. Yum.
Kiril Shaginov, Auction Rooms:
Kiril and I worked together at Seven Seeds for a little while after he came back to Australia from doing some pretty extensive traveling with his partner Josephine (who did a stellar job as a sensory judge today). He is one of those fellas that can turn their hand to anything and do an amazing job. I also missed out on his performance. He was meant to be first up on Sunday morning but was switched around to Saturday. Bummer.
Hamish at Small Batch roasted his coffee which was a washed single origin Kenyan Oretti. His emphasis for the espresso was on the elegance of single estate and raw foods, incorporating Costa Rican panela and cocoa nibs for his signature drink. He gently pressed the nibs to begin to release some of the butter to create a viscous texture. It was served warm and aerated.
For the cappuccinos he used a blend of 60% CoE Guatemalan from the Santa Clara region and 40% Ethiopian Yirgacheffe. It tasted like wild berry and toffee.
I first met Craig eons ago at my first ever barista competition. He had a distinct thai influence and approached the entire signature beverage on a harmony of sweet, sour and salt. Just like good thai food. I was impressed and thought that he was going to clean up. He has a methodical and technically perfect rhythm. This year he used a blend roasted by Veneziano of two dry process 100% Bourbon El Salvadors, the La Montanita and El Manzano. It tasted like cream and blood orange jam and he described it as juicy and crisp. He was really excited about this coffee because the farm was able to process the coffee three different ways and apparently the taste differences were remarkable.
For his signature drink he created a cold drip of the Manzano and blended it with lime, sugar syrup and mineral water.
Matt Perger, Market Lane Coffee:
Pre competition, Matt was spamming twitter with “intimidation” tactics. Come game day he lived up to the hype. The photo’s don’t really do them justice but his ceramics for water, milk and signature drink preparation were beautiful. I also liked that ad-mist the masculine vibes, he set his table with a few posies. Better than his set up was the radical Robur E mod, nicknamed by Dave Makin, “The Whiz Bang”. This little fella looks a bit like Frankenstein but it works a treat. Pre-weighed doses are placed inside a piece of black plastic chute which is topped with a lid, coffee goes in and after it finishes grinding, you blast the remaining grounds with a cheeky air canister. Turning it basically into a competition style deli grinder.
His coffee was roasted by Jason Cheltus at Market Lane who snuck away from work to join me in the crowd. Matt also used the Santa Clara but spent the entire fifteen minutes referring to his coffee lovingly as Clara. She was shade grown, washed and sundried. He instructed the judges that his espressos would be hazelnut in colour and that they could expect a clean coffee with plenty of body with notes of cherry and stone fruit. Their cappuccinos would be thick, silky and taste of shortbread and butter.
Matts signature drink was simple and rather pretty, a combination of cherry syrup and a little water for dilution.
Nic Michaelides, Studio Movida:
I do believe it was Nic’s first competition this morning and I was impressed with his attention to detail and organisation. He used a blend of El Salvador El Pollo and Colombian Del Obispo. I didn’t manage to catch who roasted his coffee but it sounded delicious. He described it as caramel up front with good body and a cocoa finish. In his signature drink he infused cream, cinnamon, cloves, walnuts and spice.
I am getting to the point of the evening where I am unable to understand my notes anymore and I must be back in St Kilda at 9am to do it all again. Hopefully I can finish it off tomorrow evening.