On April 9th to 12th the world of Specialty Coffee had its biggest party of the year; the 27th annual Coffee Expo put on by the Specialty Coffee Association of America coincided with the 16th Annual World Barista Championship. The event was fittingly held in Seattle, where the coffee scene is mostly old school, some of the roasts are still very dark, and the pour overs are plentiful.
In this year’s WBC, one barista from 49 different nations competed in two days of heats, with 12 going through to the semi-finals, with just six competitors progressing to the final. This year featured some truly unique techniques for all involved. Ben Put from Canada utilized vacuum sealing to remove the carbonic acid from his espresso; (in layman’s terms he produced a truly balanced espresso). Another standout method used was Carbonic Maceration, displayed by the victor. Uncommon in coffee and generally used in red wine production to achieve a light-bodied, fruity drop typical in the Beaujolais region of France and increasingly popular in the experimental wine-making culture of West Coast America and Australia – many judges were overheard saying it was the best cappuccino they had ever tasted.
The winner Sasa Sestic, hails from Serbia. He is now considered an Aussie since 2000, when he went to represent his country, playing handball in the Olympic Games and decided to stay. He devoted six previous attempts in previous Australian Barista Championship’s, plus 70 hours a week for four months to his practice, and was supported by a seasoned team of true coffee pros.
Even though we didn’t take the big win in Seattle, NZ showed its presence in the WBC finals as four out of the nine representative judges were Kiwis. Atomic’s own Sam Low served as a calibration barista, and our good friend Olivia Carson (L’affare) judged three days of the competition including the semi-finals.
Competitors and the coffee obsessed had copious amounts of coffee porn to ogle over in the World Coffee Expo; which showcases the latest and greatest in new coffee accessories, workshops, and impressive automotive manual soft brewing machines (basically a soft brew-making robots). Seattle is also the home to the colossal Starbucks roastery and headquarters; if Willy Wonka had a coffee factory, this would be it. The coffee giant was rumoured to have dropped 60 million dollars on the refit, and provides a complete tactile and visual experience geared towards specialty coffee consumers and tourists alike and it well worth the visit should you find yourself in this neck of the woods.