Late May, Melbourne played host to MICE–The Melbourne International Coffee Expo–one of the larger coffee expos this year. Held in conjunction with MICE, the World Barista Championship saw 51 champions from across the world showcase different approaches to coffee, with a few notably innovative approaches.
Unfortunately, despite their great efforts, our Nordic champions failed to reach the semifinals. However, both Italy and France, who have not traditionally done well in the championships, made it! Hopefully this indicates development and fresh ideas in these traditionally stagnant coffee cultures. Italy even made it to the predominantly English-speaking final round (USA, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, El Salvador and Italy) and placed 6th!
In 14th place, Rasmus Helgebostad of Norway (video of his presentation), representing Java in Oslo. Rasmus had a pared-down presentation focussing on diacetyl, a byproduct of fermentation. Rasmus explained how the processing of his coffee–from Huila, Colombia–brought out and was complemented by diacetyl, and went on to pair it with a “milk” made from fermented macadamia nuts infused with star anise.
In 18th place, Oskar Alverus of Sweden (no video). Also using a coffee from Huila, Colombia, Oskar’s presentation was informed by his daily role as a roaster at Drop Coffee in Stockholm. His signature drink, served in beautiful glassware, attempted to highlight the different elements of his coffee, by adding separate ingredients that complemented each element individually.
In 19th place, Kalle Freese of Finland (video of his presentation). Using a Brazilian natural sponsored by Tim Wendelboe, Kalle’s routine focused on coffee as a preserved foodstuff, drawing parallels to the short seasonality of most fruits in Finland. His signature drink was a combination of fresh plum juice, an almond-like “milk” made from plum pips, and a strawberry “shrub”–a puré mixed with balsamic vinegar. Kalle wrote briefly about his experience here.
In 32nd place, Torfi Torfasson of Iceland (video of his presentation). Now back on Iceland after many years in Denmark–that he also represented in the 2012 WBC–was, like Oskar (SE) and Rasmus (NO) using a coffee from Huila, Colombia, this one roasted by Tim Wendelboe. Torfi drew heavily on his experience as a chef for this presentation: his signature beverage consisted of a cranberry foam, espresso liqueur and red berry tea in conjunction with his espresso.
In 33rd place, Rasmus Gamrath of Denmark (video of his presentation, but oddly, mostly Uganda – starts at 01:40, skips out at 4 minutes). Representing the Coffee Collective in Copenhagen, Rasmus was using long time TCC favourite Kieni from Nyeri, Kenya, a beautifully crisp washed coffee. Rasmus focussed on clean coffee and used a black coffee brew for his signature drink, stating that black coffee expresses the most of the potential in coffee. A very Nordic way of looking at things that we fully agree with!
This years’ World Barista Champion is longtime competitor Pete Licata from Kansas City, USA. Having competed since 2005, he was a WBC finalist in 2011, where he placed 2nd. This year he went all the way to the top. A throughly polished competitor who knows his way around the score sheets, he ticked all the boxes. His presentation focused on the chain of people that together brings coffee all the way to the consumer. With his proven passion for coffee and for the competition itself, he’s sure to become a good ambassador in the year to come.
The most interesting and innovative presentation this year undoubtedly belongs to the Australian competitor, Matthew Perger of St Ali coffee in Melbourne. A scientifically-minded barista with a keen sense of showmanship, Matt not only put on a good show, but also, for the first time in a competition setting, used the official espresso machine as a filter brewer, brewing so-called “coffee shots” for his signature beverage, letting the judges combine extractions of different coffee varietals from the same Colombian farm.
Stating that, in his opinion, an even grind makes “everything better”, he changed things up by going with a commercial benchtop grinder, the Mahlkönig EK43, which is normally used for grinding retail filter coffee. Famed for an exceptionally even grind, it has not been used to brew espresso directly for a number of reasons. Matt worked around these limitations by employing a wide funnel that locks on to the portafilter and a new tamping method (dubbed nutation) to slow his espresso shots down enough to attain a good extraction.
The milk is from a single cow that Matt, working with a dairy farmer, had switch food a day before milking in order to improve its suitability with coffee. It seems no stone was left unturned in this presentation. If you only watch one presentation this year, this should be it.
Arguably the most accomplished signature beverage (notoriously difficult to make both look and taste good) was made by 4th place finisher Colin Harmon of Ireland, who made and bottled his own (non-alcoholic) espresso stout on stage!
The photo of Rasmus Gamrath is taken from Sprudge.com