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.
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.
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.
Ever since 2003 when Paul Bassett thrust Australia into the spotlight of world standard competition, the specialty coffee industry has faced a rapid transformation. Baristas in training have access to online communities, previous winners routine videos and a wealth of information in the growing number of world class Australian judges. Being witness to the creativity and professionalism that was displayed at this years National Australian Barista Championship, I could not believe that once again, the bar had been raised.
Eighteen competitors battled it out at the QLD Food and Wine show over three days, combatting not only nerves and pressure but the glare of cameras and a live feed streaming globally. Friday showcased the open heats, when any competitor from each state round was welcome to re-enter and using the judges scores, attempt to snare a spot in the semis. Saturday challenged the top five from the open heats against each of the state winners. They were eventually whittled down to six: Craig Simon from Veneziano in Melbourne, Erin Sampson also from Veneziano in Melbourne and a former Australian Latte Art Champion in 2009. Matt Perger from Melbourne via Sydney, former NSW Champion, representing Axil Coffee in Hawthorn. Jean Paul (J.P.) Sutton, reigning QLD Champion, representing Veneziano. Ronald Ngo, who made the massive trek from Perth and represent Five Senses and Will Priestly, Tasmanian winner and 2010 Latte Art winner, also placing 2nd in the world competition. Saturday evening saw them return to their hotels, facing the joy of washing, polishing, ironing and practicing to be ready to compete again the next morning.
Matt Perger took out the top honors this year with a score of 700 when they were announced late on Sunday afternoon. A mix of attention to detail, cheeky humor and a mentor in David Makin, world no. 2 in 2008 and competition veteran was the perfect recipe to get him across the line. He has altered his entire set up from the Victorian competition three weeks previous, laying a laser etched wooden table top, inscribed with elegant coffee trees. He used a blend comprising of the darling of the state competition this year: The Guatemalan Santa Clara and a Brazil pulp natural Santa Allina. He was calm and rehearsed as he introduced them to the judges by their first names and slyly suggested that they taste them. Matt was particular with his descriptors, informing the judges that in their espressos, they would find an amber hue. Clara would bring a vibrant cherry and cocoa element to the blend and Allina presented a bizarre, viscous, dark, rich, fruity and sweet to the palate. He then went on to prepare the cappuccinos, where in an unprecedented move, he forgot to tamp one of his shots. Thank goodness he realised before it was too late! After that he informed the judges to stir the milk. I snuck backstage and managed to taste a lukewarm cappuccino which was beautifully balanced with a hint of cocoa. For his signature drink, he wanted to replicate the drying process of his Brazil pulp natural. So he used a blow torch to simulate the sun and lightly caramelised macerated cherries with castor sugar, added mineral water as a separating agent and then poured his espresso over the top. It produced a short, balanced and sweet addition to the existing flavors in the espresso. To conclude Matt instructed the judges to finish the beverage in two sips and described what they were tasting as, “One big juicy mouthfeel”. He will be an excellent representative for Australia in Bogota in June being no stranger to hard work and displaying a rare level of professionalism.
Last photography by Sam Ho.
Erin Sampson was nipping at Matts heels by at 687 points. I adored her polished, well organised set up of laser cut metal with sleek lines. She also used one of the most distinctive coffees I have tasted, the Ethiopian dry processed Nekisse and took the judges on a, “sensory experience”. She spoke about the Hartman family that grow this coffee and the lengths of which they go to to assure quality then began her routine by preparing a pourover as one portion of her signature beverage. She had the judges smell the ground coffee and take in its unique aromas then organised the other portion of her signature beverage: a heated apricot, apricot nectar, water and honey mixture. While that was infusing, she spoke about the second component of her blend, the Panama Rio Sereno and mentioned that it was processed using the same methods as the Ethiopian Nekisse. It brought body, brightness and cleanliness to the cup. Her espresso had a lovely spicy, anise and licorice element and he cappuccinos presented pronounced flavors of honey and dried cocoa. To finish off the second portion of her signature beverage, Erin added the apricot mixture to a soda stream which would replicate the sparkling acidity of the blend and topped it off with espresso.
Will Priestly snared third place with a polished, minimalist set up. He got into explaining about the Red Bourbon varietal, of which his blend composed of. The tree has a low yield and high amount of foliage. This presents a coffee with a more complex acid content and an extremely viscous mouth feel. He blended the Brazil Santa Elena pulp natural which tasted of cocoa and dried fruit and a washed El Salvador El Retiro that brought a citrus and orange marmalade element. Sneaking up to the stage, Will gave me an espresso and I hailed it as the best coffee of the day, tasting sparkling orange sherbet and dark chocolate. A lively but really balanced espresso. When added to milk, the blend altered and gave off a particular “hot cross bun” sort of sweetness. For his signature drink, Will wanted to expand on the flavors already present in his coffee. Over heat he added a deconstructed orange(flesh, pulp and peel), water, dark brown sugar and salt. He then layered the orange reduction, added chilled espresso and placed cream on top. Producing what appeared to be a thick, crema laden espresso. Upon sipping I found flavor harmony with a definitive orange overtone and a lingering creamy, sweet finish.
The famous Pura hands.
Craig Simon picked the unlucky spot of first up the next morning. Being a competition veteran though, he walked through the whole routine without a glitch. He excitedly described his coffee as an El Salvador El Manzano which was picked and processed three different ways. He used two of these, roasted at different levels to achieve a tart, sparkling, tangerine espresso and a mandarin cappuccino. He then prepared a Chemex using water and a honey from a coffee farm in Honduras, where they utilise the bees to increase their yield by 50%. He pulled a shot of espresso and then added it to clarify the flavors. The second element of his signature drink was a blood orange jam and cream, heated to represent the body of the El Manzano. When given the opportunity to try, I grabbed an espresso, which was short and spicy with notes of caramel, burnt orange with a heavy body and a roasty finish.
J.P. Sutton was representing his home crowd and also the minority among three Victorians and a Western Australian. He brought a really informative routine with a high energy presentation. J.P. began by introducing his espresso blend as, “The Ultimate”. It consisted of 50% wet hulled Sumatran, 40% Guatemalan and 10% Kenyan Peaberry, all sourced via Sweet Marias. He described it as honey and floral on the nose, sweet and juicy in the cup with a dry finish. When I tried his blend I noted a huge body, wheaty dry finish with a very Sumatran overtone. The cappuccinos were sweet citrus and Ovaltine malt chocolate. For his signature drink, J.P. tried to reproduce a standout coffee that he tried while at Stumptown in the USA: The Esmeralda Giesha. He presented his signature drink in cupping bowls, strained a candied fruit mixture through a Chemex and served it to the judges with jasmine flowers sitting on top, needing to be scraped much like a cupping bowl. The best thing about his routine though was during the last three minutes.
Ronald Ngo had a beautiful set up. Stained dark wood with dark green Terra Keramic cups with fresh produce for his signature drinks lining the judges table. He used a blend of Kenyan Fairview Peaberry and a Brazilian San roasted by Five Senses. Together they created a blend with stone fruit acidity, silky mouthfeel with a sweet, clean cup. There were also darker notes of caramel, raw almond and butterscotch. The espressos that he presented had a preserved lemon acidity with an element of black currant. For his signature drink, Ron presented in two parts. He wanted to give the judges some insight into the blending process and each of the ingredients used stood out when cupped from his single origins. The first was a heated infusion of almond milk, cloves, sugar and vanilla. This was said to represent the flavor characteristics in the Brazilian. The next was a reduction of blueberries, cranberries, star anise, cinnamon and water. He then instructed the judges to move between the two and taste how they inter played with one another.
Judging from the level of competition this year, I am already eagerly awaiting the next set of competitors and their unique perspectives on what makes a good routine. The suprising trends that popped up were filter style coffee being presented as a signature beverage, differing dosing and grooming techniques, Ethiopian past crop coffee and banishing the table cloth, instead using custom table toppers.
Keep your eye out for Matt in Bogota, June 2011. http://worldbaristachampionship.com/2011-bogota/
The past three weeks has been a severe test of my endurance. Nothing to do with training or routines, only that I do believe I have consumed more alcoholic beverages in the first three weeks of 2011 than the whole of 2010 combined. So while my fellow baristas have been pulling late nights in the shop, slinging together various ingredients for their National routines, I have been participating in afternoon BBQ’s, dance parties and cigar smoking.
I did get a little insight into the rigorous training earlier this week though when I gave my two cents on Kris Wood’s coffee and routine. We sat in late at Proud Mary, knocking back endless espresso, evaluating and generally having a caffeine freak out. Thursday evening saw us back again, mixing caramel and fixing last minute bugs. We were so late in fact that we completely forgot about dinner and ended up having to eat microwaved Lean Cuisine. My first bite into my lemon chicken drumstick confirmed that yes, it had no bones and no, I will never eat Lean Cuisine again.
Due to having to check Kris’ Robur E into special baggage, the taxi picked us up for the airport the next morning at 4:30am. I thought that 5am starts were hard enough. That time of the morning is desolate and ugly, especially with 3 hours sleep. Once on the plane, I cracked the wrapper on American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis, read three pages and fell asleep until the jolt of the tires hitting the tarmac on the Gold Coast.
The humidity was assaulting, even at 7am as we descended the stairs onto the runway. From there it was a short trip to the beautiful air conditioned dome of the Gold Coast Convention Centre. After missing last year, I had forgotten the best part of the fact that The Nationals are held at the Food and Wine Festival: The free samples. Floating through the plethora of stalls, I got to sample various breads, cheeses, desserts, dips, olive oils and the most important thing, wine. After the heats, I threw down the challenge to my compadres to try every single drop before the event was over. Some were more enthusiastic about the idea than others.
We spent the rest of the morning polishing silverware and cracking nervous jokes in the back room. As 10am rolled around, I settled myself in the front row and prepared myself for a long day of note taking. The first round on Friday was the open heats. The change to the rules this year meant that each competitor had to have participated in a State competition. It was excellent seeing such a strong Melbourne contingent with brand new routines after St Kilda three weeks ago.
Tim Goonan, NSW, Trainer for Michelles Patisserie and Donut King:
Tim brought a blend of two Ethiopians, a Harrar and a Sidamo. He made a point of emphasising the spice element of the blend and also mentioned its fruit and nut notes. Their body complimented one another. The cappuccinos had the same profile but were mellowed in milk.
His signature drink was dashingly pretty and one of the most individual of the whole event. Tim made an icing sugar and egg meringue with cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg then crushed it in with a mortar and pestle. He then rimmed the glasses with a scored apple and dipped the edge with the meringue dust. He then added a homemade, gluten free, dairy free ice cream. It was made with vanilla, coconut and almond milk. On the first sip the judges experienced a creamy, sweet espresso and were then instructed to let the ice cream melt and finish the beverage.
Simon James, Vic, Trainer for Michelles Patisserie and Donut King:
Simon used his time from the Victorian competition to alter his routine based on the judges feedback. He also happened to be using the same machine as Kris for the event. In the morning, during practice time, Kris asked me to steam a jug to taste his cappuccinos. I was surprised when my jug came up severely bubbly and almost unusable. I just thought it was a mistake on my part and wrote it off.
When it came time for Simon to present his cappuccinos, he got to the judges table and then doubled back to steam another jug. I was impressed with his ability to swallow some pride and present a better beverage. Then it clicked, the steam wand was faulty. Kris was on the machine soon after that and had a sneaky word to the technician backstage. Though nothing was done and it wasn’t until the finals that the machine was taken out of circulation. Either way, it would have been nice to see Simon get through to the finals again.
He used varietal as his platform to showcase two differing coffees. The blend was a mix of Caturra, one a pulp natural Brazil and the other, a washed Panama. They had been grown at differing altitudes in different countries and both were processed in individual ways.
The Brazil was said to shine in milk, with the body of a dry processed coffee. It was buttery and had milk chocolate sweetness. It had been roasted to the point just after second crack, to ensure integrity through milk.
The washed process of the Panama brought a juicy element to the espresso, the Brazil brought butter and dark chocolate. Simon then made the point of stressing the importance of direct trade coffee, as the Panama he used works closely with UNESCO to bring a better quality of life to the farms workers and their families.
For his signature he had gone back to the drawing board since early January. What he created was described as being zingy like an espresso fruitini. Simon used a mandarin curd, made with egg, brown sugar, mandarin juice and tapioca flour. The beverage had a beautiful grape sweetness and acidity.
Angus Mackie, Owner, Canberra:
Angus is one of those guys that you can see moving onwards and upwards in the competitions towards brilliance. He also had the guiding hand of Sasha, his boss and ACT winner to send him in the right direction.
His blend was a pulp natural Brazil that was reminiscent of a sweet dessert and a washed Bolivian that brought clean stone fruits to the table. In the espresso they came together to be juicy, sparkling, clean and have a hint of stone fruit.
The cappuccinos he described as tasting like a Snickers bar with an elegant mouth feel and chocolate finish.
For his signature he steeped dried figs to enhance the characteristics already inherent in the coffee itself. He then reduced that and added balsamic vinegar for acidity and sugar to balance. He also added warm milk foam and malted chocolate.
I really liked Sam’s approach of utilising his fathers wine producing knowledge and paralleling to coffee. He presented a semi washed, aged Ethiopian Guji and gave insightful knowledge about the coffee aging process. It was placed in a climate controlled warehouse to enhance the present flavours and sweetness. Having had fresh crop Guji, I was curious to taste but didn’t get the chance.
He had the judges smell the green, then roasted coffee. He also described the aromas as floral, honey and berry.
For his espresso Sam described the flavours as an up front fruit acidity with a deep, rich sweetness of berries and bergamot. The coffee itself was really versatile, coming up as a blueberry muffin when added to milk for the cappuccino.
The signature drink is where Sam’s knowledge from his family really shone through. He tried to replicate an alcohol free, espresso based red wine. He did this by maturing figs, plums, brown sugar and water in a temperature controlled environment for 7 days prior to the competition. He then chilled his espresso in carafes and served the beverage chilled.
Kris Wood, Vic, Proud Mary:
Kris was one of the few competitors that took two grinders. A brave move, I believe. Not simply for doubling your set up time but also the cost. It takes a massive amount of money to take one of those things on a plane, let alone two.
His routine this time around was completely stripped back since the Vic’s. Few beakers, no syringes and more focus on palate experience. He even tossed around the idea of naming his signature drink, “The Palate Party.”
The coffee that he used for his espresso was roasted by Nolan at Proud Mary on their 1kg Giesen. It included 60% Guatemalan Santa Clara and 40% Costa Rican Perla Negra. On a lighter roast it had intense florals, beautiful cherry notes, apricot and buttery toffee. This roast was a little darker though and it brought out darker cocoa flavours.
For the cappuccino, the ratio was altered to 40/40 and then 20% Sumatra Wih Pesam that was hand sorted was added. It tasted like peanut butter toast.
Then onto the signature drink. Kris infused dried apricots and water on a low heat in the oven for four hours. He added a small amount to the bottom of a glass, then included a mars bar and cream reduction to the side to sip through.
All of his routine was done ad lib and it had a nice casual feel.
Each competition I attend, I always ask myself, who will try and recreate an Ethiopian coffee ceremony?
Jai had good reason to though, spending six months there recently and brought back a real slice of that country into his routine. Firstly I really have to commend him on his choice of set up. He used a polished distressed wood throughout and it looked terrifically smart. His knock box in particular stood out for me. It was a free standing small old stump that had been converted to a perfectly usable receptacle.
He used one of my favourite coffees, the Ethiopian Guji and had it roasted to three different levels. In the espresso Jai presented flavours of tart blueberries with a dry finish. In the cappuccino, there were elements of sweet honey oat that was punch and lingering.
For the signature drink, all of his paraphernalia was related to an Ethiopian coffee ceremony, with similar burners, mortar and pestles and cups. Although time was a little short to do it traditionally. Instead he used flavours that were common in Ethiopian cooking. Barley malt, lemon butter and cinnamon bark. It was served in lovely African cups.
Remy Shpayzer, Cafenatics:
Remy and I did our first competitions together. His first signature drink was a take on Borsch from his russian heritage and I recall it being an amazing and surreal colour. He used a blend of the El Salvador El Retiro which was washed and patio dried and the Colombian Del Obispo. Current Australian latte art champion and friend of Remy, Will Priestly commented that this combination tasted of, “Unicorns and rainbows”. Onstage, Remy instructed the judges that the crema would be light and that it would have notes of peaches and honey. Unfortunately I did not get to wrap my chops around that one.
For his signature drink he combined white peaches, water, vanilla. The finishing touch was a garnish of pepper, which is said to bring the sweetness out in the rest of the ingredients.
Simon James, trainer:
I had my eye on Simon this year. After his close finish with Scottie Callahan at the nationals last year and a very valuable free trip to the London WBC, he was on the top of my list. The first suprising element of his routine was the lack of the Thermomix. Each year, Simon has been able to come up with a signature drink that utilises one or more of its many functions. With a price tag like that, I’d want to use it more than once too.
This year he brought his never failing ability to whip up a new routine but no Thermomix.
He began by informing the judges that he was doing something unprecedented in his many years of competing. Showcasing a single origin, the Brazil Fazenda Barreiro from Mercanta. It was a pulp natural with a buttery, sweet, hazelnut, crisp and acidic flavor profile.
For his signature drink he added molasses, cream and homemade marmalade.
Kris Wood, Proud Mary:
Kris came 2nd at last years competitions, with myself nipping at his heels in 3rd place. So I was pretty interested to see what he came up with this year. Also, with Nolan being out and bringing up a brand new baby Felix, it was also lovely to see someone flying the colours of one of the most progressive cafes in Melbourne.
He ran two coffees, for the espresso, a Guatemalan Santa Clara CoE. For the cappuccinos, a base of the Guatemalan with an Ethiopian Nekisse and a Sumatran, hand picked for defects by the fellas at the roastery. Over beers of course. Apparently they had to throw about half of the batch away because of varying defects.
His cappuccinos, he and Johnny sourced <a href="“>Jonsey’s non homogenised milk and it tasted of mars bars. Kris wanted to amplify the flavors in the espresso within the signature portion of his routine so he took Monsieur Truffle cocoa nibs, set them in the oven for 4 hours within a water bath to extract a liquid. He then did the same with chinese dried plums and added to the concoction a white nectarine puree.
Hsiu-Chi Chiu, otherwise known as Archie, otherwise known as G-Star, cafenatics:
My God, did I laugh when as soon as he began speaking, Archie introduced his coffee as his mistress. Or something along those lines. It was a nice bit of banter that really brightened a day of terse technicalities. He also had a very simple, clean and beautiful set up. Great colours.
He used a blend of a Guatemalan El Pollo and a Panama Rio Sereno. It was sweet and honeyed, with the Guatemalan bringing dark chocolate. He began by pulling espressos for his signature into chilled basins to retain the aromatics.
I was desperate to try his signature, which consisted of avocado and condensed milk with a touch of milk foam. It looked amazing!
Well, thank you internet. I just experienced the wonder and joy of losing an entire post. Oh yay.
A few weeks ago, Mark and Bridget organised Erwin and Suzie from Cup of Excellence to take the trip down to Melbourne town and teach us monkeys a thing or two. There were plenty of coffee folk there from all around Australia, from Perth, Tasmania, Sydney and the Snowy Mountains. We sat in on two of the four days that were focused intensively on cupping, scoring, farming and CoE as a global standard for quality.
Cup of Excellence is synonymous for quality, a non for profit organisation that has been around for a decade. Since kicking off in Brazil in 1999, they have been sending experienced roasters, buyers and growers in almost 10 countries, every single harvest to score and judge handpicked lots from origins throughout the globe. Every coffee that stands the test of intensive tasting and comes out with a score of over 84 is offered online in a completely transparent auction. These can be bought by anyone that can cough up the serious dollars that the lots sell for.
Buyers sit tirelessly on their computers in the wee hours, watching and bidding, trying to come out on top. Farmers in turn become national heroes for high scoring or winning coffees. Their lives are changed by the money that comes directly back to them, having the opportunity to build better houses, invest in farm machinery, employ more staff and and any number of positive changes.
The Friday and Saturday I spent learning about the program and cupping with cool cats was the raddest coffee time I’ve had the whole time I have lived here. This is a good example of a cool cat.
We learnt about faults, compared roast to roast, discovered the differences that water quality can make to a cupping and tasted solutions to calibrate our palates. Turns out that a sweeter coffee is also a higher scoring one. Are we all really just a bunch of sweet tooths? You can tell by the amount of spit on my sheets that I was really getting into it. Or uncoordinated. Maybe both.
I can vouch that I am a bit of a sweet tooth though. As when I was totally coffee-d out at the end of the two days, the only thing that could bring me back to life was a batch of homemade hot cross buns.