Become a Barista Competition

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The inaugural Become a Barista school competition held in Brisbane recently was a huge success. 

Participants from seven schools performed to an exceptional standard considering their limited experience. Having said that, participants should be inspired by Matt Perger, the current Australian Barista Champion. Matt was 21 and had been making coffee for less than 2 years when he won this prestigious award – and came 3rd in the World Barista Championship final where over 50 countries competed.

Chefs of the Future had asked me to help them organise a competition to complement their cookery competition for high schools students. We hope the barista competition does as well as the cookery competition, which has become an international event, supported by the Culinary Federation of Australia.

We kept the competition format and scoring of the school event as close as possible to that of the World Barista Championships, the international benchmark for barista competitions.  Participants are judged on the technical aspects of their performances as well as the sensory quality of their beverages. They had to produce three beverages: an espresso and cappuccino (to rigorous specifications) and a signature beverage (of their own design). We were honoured to have Jean Paul Sutton (the current Queensland barista champion) and Andrew Dickson (master roaster from Veneziano Coffee) to judge the competition.

The event was staged at on 6th October 2011 at Blue Sky Coffee, who also provided the beans and a 10 minute one-on-one mentoring session for each participant just prior to their performance. Espresso Mechanics very generously set up workstations with Nuova Simonelli WBC machines and it was a treat for high school students to work on such great machines. Dairy Farmers donated milk and for prizes Barista Tools donated a pack of espresso accessories and Coffee Education Network donated books. Everyone involved did a fabulous job in supporting the event.

The winner was Jacqui Robinson from Kedron State High School. For her signature beverage she infused her espresso with pear, cinnamon and lavender. It was served in a martini glass with skewered pear balls dusted in cinnamon sugar. According to the judges, she also made the best espresso of the day and an excellent cappuccino. Jacqui’s tamping skills also helped to put her ahead of the rest. The runner up was Mia Lee Sye from Ipswich Girls Grammar School whose signature drink was an espresso with granita for which the judges scored her highly. We congratulate all the participants who would have learnt a lot from the experience.

The intention is to launch this competition throughout Australia to support high schools students who may choose a career as a barista – using the international standards that have been set by the World Barista Championships. I would be keen to hear from any teacher or coffee company who would like to be involved in knowing more about this competition.