Over three intense days, the nation’s top regional baristas came together at the Melbourne Showgrounds for the annual Australian Barista, Brewers Cup, Cup Tasters and Pura Latte Art Championships, along with the inaugural Coffee Roasting Championship.
Hugh Kelly of Ona Coffee in Canberra was named Australian Barista Champion for the second year in a row, becoming the second person in the history of the Championships to take out back-to-back titles.
In a repeat of last year’s results, Matthew Lewin of Axil Coffee Roasters was runner up, while Jade Jennings of Veneziano Coffee Roasters rounded out the top three.
“Oddly enough I woke up on the day of the finals with a strange feeling that the universe would be on my side, and it was,” Mr Kelly said.
While he admitted that the competition was much stronger this year, it didn’t seem to take any major toll on the coffee connoisseur.
“I think it’s more of a mindset than anything and I felt a lot more in control at this competition then I did last year,” he explained.
“This time around it was more of a fun experience rather than a stressful one and everything went smoothly.”
Having been “pushed” into a barista course by his father at 18 years of age, Mr Kelly soon became obsessed with all things coffee.
He began working at a café while studying at university, and before long the coffee took priority over the commerce.
Mr Kelly completed his degree and leaped straight into a career in the coffee industry, where he has remained for the last eight or so years.
According to the champion, the secret to the perfect coffee is that there isn’t one.
“There are a million different variables and it comes down to who can understand them and control them the best across all facets, from roasting, to how long you age the coffee, the type of coffee you use and the techniques used when making it,” he explained.
“It’s a combination of all of these things and if one of them falls away, your coffee won’t taste good.”
Mr Kelly perfected each of these elements to win the panel of sensory judges over, as he presented four espressos, four milk beverages and four signature drinks in a 15-minute timeframe.
The victor sourced coffee from Panama for his espressos, and an Ethiopian coffee found near the Geisha forest in Wush Wush for his milk beverages.
For his signature drink, he used the same Panama coffee in espresso form, adding 12 millilitres of peach sous vide liquid, the vapour of jasmine flavours, and 50 grams of tangerine peel and unrefined organic cane sugar to make a tangerine sugar.
The sugar was then heated at 150°C in a fairy floss machine to create a “tangerine floss”, adding a sense of fun and frivolity to his masterpiece.
Having wowed the judges with his creation and won the title, Mr Kelly will go on to represent Australia at the World Barista Championship, to be held in Seoul later this year.
The gifted barista has already begun preparing for the international competition, experimenting with some new ideas inspired by his recent victory.
“We have a very high quality of judges in Australia and they give us a lot of good feedback and clues on areas we may be lacking in,” he said.
“On the seven-and-a-half-hour drive back from Melbourne I came up with a lot of ideas.”
Ona Coffee celebrated another triumph on the day, with its Head Roaster Sam Corra winning the Australian Brewers Cup Championship.
Shindong ‘Aaron’ Su of Short Black Café in Melbourne claimed the Australian Pura Latte Art Championship, presenting original and creative designs including a Rock Hopper Penguin, Flying Peacock, and Coffee Loving Squirrel.
Yama Kim of Kingswood Coffee in Sydney took out the Australian Cup Tasters Championship, while Jack Allisey of Veneziano Coffee in Melbourne made history, winning the inaugural Australian Coffee Roasting Championship.
The World Brewers Cup, World Latte Art and World Cup Tasters Championships will take place in June in Budapest, and the World Coffee Roasting Championship will be held in December in Guangzhou, China.