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Victorian Barista Championships

The final weekend in Melbourne is normally dominated by the AFL Grand Final on Saturday and parade on Sunday. Most people were thus glued to their TVs, in pubs or at the footy itself on Saturday and many turned out for the parade (I assume) on Sunday. Though I like Aussie Rules and if the Bombers had been in involved in the Grand Final (fat chance), things might have been different, but my love of coffee prevailed over any feelings I have for the Cats or Saints and I chose to spend the weekend away from all the footy at the AASCA Victorian Barista Championships held at the Melbourne Showgrounds as part of the Royal Melbourne Show.

First, a note on said Show. Normally when I hear that Australia has an obesity problem, I wonder where it lies. Walking around the leafy inner-northern suburbs, the affluent south and the CBD (the places I generally spend the most time in) you really don’t see many obese people. I discovered where they are however, they are all at the Royal Melbourne Show, jostling for Bertie Beetle showbags and dagwood dogs. Seriously, this many fat people i have never seen all in one place! Rolling along with their fat children, fat spouses, fat hands with fat fingers clutching fat sausages and donuts, dripping in sugar and fat. If this seems like a tirade, it probably is. I hear some people are genetically pre-disposed to obesity, I also am no saint when it comes to healthy eating (or living in general) but sometimes, it really is unhealthy and quite disgusting.

Rant aside, we were mostly safe at the barista champs from the onslaught of the general public at the Show. Not good for AACSA but good for me, I guess. The competition stretched over two days with latte art and cup tasting on the Saturday and the barista competition proper on the Sunday. I missed the latte art, never being a fan of early Saturday morning rises, but witnessed the cup tasting and most of the barista comp on Sunday.

At the cup tasting, each competitor had a formidable set of 24 cups of coffee in front of them (don’t worry they didn’t have to drink them all, merely a spoons-worth from each one that they could spit into a spittoon!). They were in groups of three, with each group having two coffees that are the same and one that was different. The task was to pick the odd one out and they were judged on the number correct as well as the time taken to complete the set.

A flurry of frantic slurping, spitting, raising and shuffling ensued! Pictured below is Luca Costanzo from Coffee Review Australia.

The winner on the day was Aaron Wood from St. Ali with a total of six cups correct in the heat and four in the final (out of 8 in each, yes it is harder than it sounds), with Remy and Hamish (who’s from St. Ali) coming in second and third respectively.

Now onto the main event.

While I did hear a few whispers of things here and there about the quality of the coffee on offer by the venerable baristi participating, I didn’t get to try any, as that was the domain of the judges. I do have some photos I took, having infiltrated the big-lens-equipped, DSLR-wielding photographer pack at the front with my humble point & shoot Canon Ixus.

The structure of the competition involved each barista serving up four cappuccini, four espressi and four signature drinks to the judges (of which there was an imposing panel of six for each candidate, two being dedicated technical judges).

The first competitor, and a personal favourite, was Talor Browne from Seven Seeds/BBB fame. She has got to be the rockstar candidate among baristi, with her brilliant sense of style, coffee plant tattoo and million-dollar smile. Her signature drink was served in a cupcake holder! Her presentation was themed around airplane service, her playing the air hostess and the soundtrack being soft jazz. Is she the coffee-wielding Girl from Ipanema?

The next barista I saw was Jake Sullivan from Auction Rooms in North Melbourne, with his dainty bow-tie and the green-bean-coffee-sack apron addition being a rather nice touch if I do say so. His signature drink was procured from a siphon (which you can see in the background of the pic below) and his proud boss was also in the front row, awww.

Next up we have Ryan from WA’s Five Senses with a Sumatran bean.

Followed by Kris Wood from South Melbourne stalwart St. Ali‘s cohort.

Followed by Caleb from Five Senses

Last up was Josh from Coffee Beat who’s signature drink looked amazing, though I forget what was in it.

In between, we were entertained by Will from Cafenatics in QV who won the Latte Art competition the day before and was randomly pulled from the crowd during a delay… and well his latte art was pretty awesome, including a cup with four rosetti (the one pictured below is the one with bubbles).

After Josh came time for the decision. A brief delay ensued, an issue was raised by the technical judges and they had to get the head World Barista Championships judge on the phone for it to be resolved. But we were soon to know who the top 3 would be! In 3rd we had Talor Browne from Seven Seeds, 2nd was Kris Wood from St. Ali and the winner was Caleb from Five Senses!

I enjoyed writing this blogpost over an espresso and two magics at surely the best cafe in Melbourne, Seven Seeds – how very fitting. If you guys want to see more of my pics from the event, check out the facebook gallery. :-)

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