Since the Victorian Siphon heats in March, Australia’s alternate brew method competition scene has really been heating up. Small Batch (Auction Rooms) hosted the first national competition in their brand new roastery in North Melbourne, unshackling baristas from the constraints of espresso brewing and releasing an extraordinary sense of creative freedom only evident when a new style of competition is explored. Up for grabs was a trip to compete on the world stage in Japan, a limited edition “Tabi” siphon, complete with Tokyo skyline etched onto the glass and a one of a kind engraved paddle.
The Saturday gave previous competitors a second chance at glory in the open heats with the Victorians, most of whom had been disqualified in the State competition on time issues, snapping up all four spots. Each barista was given the Colombian Las Mangas, ten minutes and was asked to present three siphons, two identical and one signature beverage.
Jonathan Bentley from Auction Rooms got the rooms attention when he discovered mid routine that one of the rubbers seals had gone missing. He had a terrific return to form and presented the only savory signature of the day, a take on the dressing from his Nonna’s tomato salad that was salty, balsamic and rich. Kiril Shaginov showcased his precision and playfulness with a melted turkish delight and vanilla pod, sticky sweet signature. Aaron Wood from The Premises and Duchess of Spotswood shone with simplicity and an undeniable rock solid technique, sharing a beverage that eventually won him the best signature drink award. A simple an seasonal blood orange and fresh cane juice creation that highlighted the coffee itself. Aaron also came in third place.
Will Glover from Auction Rooms knocked it out of the ballpark though with his WCG Las Mangas stout. Will cooled his signature siphon with dry ice in a dramatic fashion, mixed with malt extract syrup, caramelised sugar and molases and then carbonated the lot to exaggerate the boozy, herbaceous nature of the Las Mangas. The specially made coasters topped off the whole experience and Will repeated his performance the next night, with even more sass, to nab the top spot.
Tuli Keidar from Mecca in Sydney began day two of the proceedings with one of the most exciting coffees in Australia at the moment, the Panama Elida. He used a blend of the natural and washed to achieve balance and created a signature siphon entitled “Voltron” that utilised galaxy hops, juniper berries and orange rind to end up with a very gin like beverage. Voltron was a tie with Aaron Wood for the best signature drink of the competition.
Iain McRae from Coffee Alchemy in Sydney managed to cram a lot into his ten minute time frame. He presented a blend of Kenyan Kanocho, Ethiopian Guji and Bolivian Caranavi and a spectacularly beautiful signature drink named, “The Black Star”, that dripped through and soaked up mandarin skins, cinnamon, star anise, earl grey tea, apricot and cacao. The beverage was finished by dissolving orange blossom fairy floss and munching on a macaroon.
Johnny Vroom had the weight of a state resting on his shoulders and with most of his time being chewed away by his new venture in Kew, Ora he did well to be nipping at Will’s heels in second place. Johnny used a blend of two Geishas roasted by Proud Mary, the Don Pachi and Santa Teresa. He bottled a carbonated and chilled blend of a cold drip of the same coffee and his signature siphon that he sweetened with a small amount of vanilla syrup. Johnny even managed to find time to cap the beverage in neat little bottles with, “sip”, written in gold lettering across the front.
Kris Wood also represented Proud Mary with their new season Geisha, the Santa Teresa. He was right on the money when describing this coffee as so perfect that there were absolutely no improvements that could be made on it in regards to a signature beverage. So he took a simplistic approach, resting the roasted beans for two days with fennel and bay leaf. Even after the onslaught of beverages, the judges touted his identical siphons as the best of the evening.
Will has been furiously training to go head to head with the worlds best in Tokyo on the 30th of September. I have no doubt Australia is in very good hands. Lets hope they like hip-hop. You can find out more about the competition here.
Mark Free has been the captain of the good ship Brother Budan for a while now and no surprise, the dude is sick of espresso. Black Coffee is a ridiculously hard to find pop up at Somewhere Gallery in Royal Arcade. It serves Aeropress, Syphon and Pourover and has been generously donated coffee by every big gun in the roasting business. This morning I spent the few maiden hours catering to a thirsty crowd of revelers. My favorite brew of the day was the Elida, a naturally processed Best of Panama. So lavender.
Big round of applause for Mark Free, he’s onto a winner. There is no milk, no sugar and no bullshit.
You can find out a little more about it here.
On Monday morning while riding down Elizabeth st on my way to the Tim Wendelboe talk at Market Lane, I was blind sided by a taxi and knocked off my bike in a rather horrific manner. Sitting on the curb, various kind folk draped me in a blankets and waited until the ambulance arrived. After they had given me a once over, removed the gravel from my badly road-rashed knee’s and made sure I wasn’t suffering from a concussion, I made to get back on the bike and continue towards Prahran. Unfortunately though, my bike didn’t fare as well as I had through the accident and I had to leave it with the friendly crew at BSC. In a strange coincidence, Remy from Little Wish was also having bike troubles that morning and just so happened to walk into the same bike shop as me. We hopped in a taxi and waltzed in just before the morning began.
The talk was interrupted at various stages with slide photos of team Wendelboe partying it up, which salvaged my badly spaced mind with much needed humor. The most relevant piece of information which punctuated the haze of post-accident was the importance of green buyers and roasters forming partnerships with growers. Not in a sense of labeling the coffee that you have bought as, “Relationship Coffee”. But entering into written or spoken agreements in which, in return for their loyalty to you, you continue to buy their produce, regardless of quality. As Tim pointed out, coffee trees have a five year cycle of quality, with some years faring better than others.
Later on in the day, we hit the cupping tables and were lucky enough to taste a Geisha grown in Honduras. It was only planted two years ago but it knocked everything else on the table out of the running. Really looking forward to what it might come up with in a few years time.
After mopping various spit stains from the floors and rearranging the chairs for the next days service, Will Studd breezed into the building laden with styrofoam boxes, overflowing with a plethora of deliciousness. The stragglers of the day crowded around the table to be entertained by a broad spectrum of the cheesiest kind. Everything from the softest goats curd to Taleggio and Cheddar. We got an enthralling condensed version of the ins and outs of the Australian cheese industry and finished off with the infamous Roquefort (which after a 2 million dollar paper commissioned by the Australian Government is actually allowed to be imported. It was AMAZING).
Doesn’t really matter what flavor passion comes in but this one was particularly delectable.
Goddamn. Melbourne will you stop it with all of these interesting coffee events with plentiful alcohol? I am slowly becoming a party-hound and its beginning to effect the rest of my life.
Either way, guess what? Market Lane has raised six thousand big ones for the Tsunami Appeal. Thats a combination of everything that was raised on Monday, where they opened their doors and gave every dollar spent into the charity box. Add the proceeds from Rosettas for Relief that happened on Wednesday night and you have a big-fat-fun-karma-laden cheque.
The set up was very similar to last year when Coffee Kids was the recipient with Dave Makin doing a terrific job of hosting the event and keeping to a tight timeline. 32 baristas went head to head and the winner took home a 6 month coffee subscription to Market Lane, a Toshi jug and SO MUCH GLORY.
The room collectively gasped as last years crowned winner and competition extraordinaire, Toshi was knocked out in the first round. Judge Luca aptly put it when faced with a barrage of tulip slinging baristas when he whispered in my ear, “Tonight should really be titled ‘Tulips for Tsunami’s'”. I laughed so hard I almost dropped two cups, a beer and my camera.
There were some impressive designs produced under the gaze of a 400 strong crowd. My favorite was the cock and balls. Remy Shpayzer produced an impressive man on the moon when he went jug to jug with Matt Perger in the final showdown. Of course though, the Australian Barista Champion stole the show and auctioned off his prizes for a pretty penny.
I’ve been a busy little beaver these past few weeks. Two new jobs getting me up at 5am, 7 days a week. My various bicycles have been letting me down, making for nervous train rides in peak hour, shoved into nooks, crannies and armpits. The golden rule I have found is, if you need to be on time, you wont be. Missing connections, sprinting from one platform to the next. Metro is no longer my buddy.
Following one of these frantic mornings and a busy Sunday service at the Duchess, the crew downed some after work beers and watched Eoghan, the new recruit as he piled ripe peaches precariously atop his “Devonshire Syphon Infuser”. Shane, Andy and I stood around in the back kitchen throwing around ideas about how to make it work without a) Falling apart b) Dripping everywhere c) Spilling great chunks of ripe peach into a perfectly brewed syphon. What Eoghan eventually decided on was made with haste but came up with the best tasting signature drink of the evening. A gently peach and caramel flavored, very clean tasting brew(I think this was achieved by using a second paper filter in the pouring process).
The following is an extract of what I wrote for Beanscene, figuring it would be a wee bit foolish to write all the same information twice. The broad overview of the event was that it was a great turn out with some amazing creativity in the signature drink department. Sadly four of the competitors went over time(I don’t blame them, the Japanese competition allows 15 minutes for the same presentation) and that spilled over into the rest of the event. It was safe to say that when the judges finally came to a decision at 11:45pm on a Sunday evening and I had to be at work at 6:30am the next day, I was more interested in my pillow than the winners.
Three customers walk in the door of your cafe, they look serious. They stride directly to the counter and ask for two identical Syphons of the Nicuraguan La Esperanza Cup of Excellence #19 and for their third beverage, they want you to show your creativity and suprise them. After ordering, the trio also let you know that they only have ten minutes in which you can make all of these and on top of that, “Could you tell us everything you know about La Esperanza?”.
Seven competitors experienced exactly that on Sunday as Auction Rooms hosted the first Syphon Championship ever to be held in Australia.
Johnny Vroom from Proud Mary walked away with the title of Victorian Syphon Champion, a ticket to the nationals in Syndney and a swag of Hario products. He was true to his name and sped through the ten minute presentation time with skill, never lacking on keeping the judges informed. He described the coffee as having a lemon acidity with a sweet, long, caramel finish. His brew parameters were 25 grams of coffee with 250ml of water with a 30 second crust break. He began by infusing toasted coconut and coffee in his first Syphon, left it to chill in an ice bath and went on to prepare his comparative Syphons. When the judges were sipping happily, he added vanilla syrup, a cherry reduction and a small amount of brandy. He then placed it in a soda stream to be carbonated. What was produced was a lightly sparkling, chilled, balanced Syphon, enhanced by the warmth of the Brandy.
Proud Mary certainly was proud as it took second place also with Kris Wood breezing through with his competition veteran calm. Sticking to his penchant for minimalism, he produced what the judges recognised as the most technically perfect Syphons of the evening. For his signature drink, he wanted to enhance the already present lemon acidity, so Kris increased his dosage significantly and upped the brew time to 50 seconds. It was a brilliant demonstration to the judges of a coffee presenting differing flavors when produced in a radically contrasting manner. He was also the only competitor to briefly brush on the history of Syphon coffee and the Japanese desire for low levels of turbidity.
New kid on the block, Eoghan Fitzpatrick from The Duchess had been up all night constructing his, “Devonshire Syphon Infuser”. A wooden tripod that supported hollowed out peaches, crammed with home made caramel. Once his higher dosed and more agitated Syphon had been brewed, he poured it through the center, creating the most beautiful signature beverage of the evening. A gently peach flavored, sweet and floral brew.
Jamie Elfman from Eclipse had a unique technique that produced the most exceptional tasting indentical Syphons of the evening. He used a finer grind with a 16 gram dose and a 36 second infusion, looking for orange blossom. He agitated using eight turns and pointed out his three layers of gasses, ground coffee and liquid in the brewing process. He also let the brew cool significantly before allowing the judges to taste. For his signature drink, he infused anise in the bottom bowl of the Syphon then proceeded to make liquid chocolate bullets. I would have drank the whole thing but that may have been a little greedy. Unfortunately due to going overtime, Jamie was disqualified.
Emily Ch’ng from Monk Bodhi Dharma is one talented lady. Her name is on the roll call for every Australian coffee event so the Syphon competition would be no different. She found notes of pineapple when she was cupping the Nicuraguan and tried to recreate with a 45 second extraction and a crust break at 20 seconds. She also employed a popular move of the evening, using a cold cloth to speed up the drop down process. For her signature, she infused hibiscus syrup, raspberry essence , orange blossom water and jasmine flower tea. Emily also rimmed the judges glasses with crushed rosewater toffee, creating an elegant, delicate and delicious signature beverage. Pulling the unlucky first spot, sadly Emily also went over time.
Kiril Shaginov’s routine was supremely polished and rehearsed on his home turf of Auction Rooms. He began with presenting a purified Norwegian water to the judges, spoke in depth about where the coffee had come from then proceeded to prepare his signature beverage within a Hario hand grinder. He ground cacao and panela sugar, asking the judges to take in its aromas and made a Syphon using the grounds. His Syphon recipe was 21 grams of coffee for a 43 second brew time, using the cold cloth method. He then poured his beverages through an aerator, commonly used in wine. When probed about this method, he said he couldn’t put his finger on what it did to the coffee, just that it added an element that he believed it couldn’t be without. Kiril was stalled a little when his burners took longer than expected to heat and for his overtime, was disqualified.
Head Barista from Auction Rooms Will Glover brought decent tunes and a wry humor to the evening. The first thing that attracted the eye while he set up was the peculiar use of Seven Eleven slurpee cups. It all became apparent when for his signature beverage, he prepared a coffee style slurpee, using Panama Geisha ice cubes. He prepared his Syphons using 25 grams of coffee, a 37 second brew time and a cupping grind, highlighting the lemon acidity. He also spoke about turbidity and Syphon quality but juggling the ice and slow burners also meant that Will lost time and was also disqualified for being over time.
As midnight on Sunday drew closer and the beers were running out, the trio of judges nodded to one another and called out the winners, bringing to a close what promises to be a revolution for Australian coffee competitions. Keep an eye on the AASCA website for further details on the National Syphon Championships being held in Sydney later this year.