Craig Simon wins ASCA Southern Region Barista Competition

Two time Australian Barista Champion and World Barista Championship finalist, Craig Simon has made a comeback after a two year break from competing to win the Southern Region Barista Championship over the weekend. He went up against 10 highly skilled barista’s that all brought innovation and passion to the competition.

The Australian Specialty Coffee Association (ASCA) is dedicated to promoting specialty coffee and providing professional training for its development all over the country. They do this through various ways but their most recognisable is the regional, state and national coffee championships, and sponsoring winners to compete in international coffee events world-wide. These events allow for various opportunities in the coffee industry such as coffee training, judging, coffee origin features and creating many career paths for young baristas.

The Southern Region Coffee Championships on the 16th and 17th September hosted many coffee competitions such as Barista, Brewers, Latte Art and Cup Tasting at Specialist Espresso Services in West Melbourne.

Craig Simon took to the Barista stage with his routine by recognising the gap between the language used in the coffee industry, and the language his end consumers are comfortable with. This lead Craig to undertake the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) wine course to explore ways to describe coffee and help the customer describe what they like. Craig borrowed the wine industry’s deductive taste matrix and applied this to coffee, exploring primary, secondary and tertiary flavours, aromas and structures.

Craig used a Panama Gesha coffee from Ninety Plus Estate. He has worked closely with Steve and Joseph of Ninety Plus Gesha Estates over the last five years, collaborating together to develop new innovative processing methods. These coffees are the pinnacle of coffee taste expression, capturing the unique flavours of the Gesha varietal grown in Panama and using best practice methods to deliver an elegant and complex fruit forward taste experience.

A core part of the Barista competition is to create a signature beverage primarily based around coffee, but enhances the espresso’s flavour profile. Inspired by his learnings at the WSET course, Craig’s signature drink combined two of his favourite indulgences, coffee and wine, to create a “Coffee Shiraz”. The drink was a combination of espresso balanced with elderberry, juniper berry, dried eucalyptus leaves, vanilla bean and shiraz grape juice to reference the flavours of a wine from the Barossa Valley region.

In addition to the Barista competition, ASCA also hosted the Southern Region Brewers Cup, Latte Art Championship and Cup Tasters Championship. Veneziano trainer, Justin Luchterhand and state sales Mmanager Jamie Thomson competed in Brewers Cup, placing sixth and seventh respectively.

Justin’s routine was based on his career as a trainer and helping baristas to develop their coffee knowledge and skills in making quality coffee in a consistent way. His passion is to share knowledge on different origins and varieties and how these processes give the coffee certain characteristics in flavour.

In his routine, Justin used a naturally processed coffee from the Benchmaji region, the birth place of the Gesha varietal due to its complexity and flavour.

Jamie, focused on the progression in the industry from farming all the way to the end consumer and highlighted how changing variables, such as brew ratio and water hardness, can make coffee taste different. He explained that progression in coffee means nothing unless an improvement is made in the way coffee is communicated to the end consumer.

Jack Allisey and Daniel Shadbolt also represented Veneziano Coffee Roasters in the Cup Tasters Championship, placing fourth and seventh respectively.

We saw some of our best team members shine in the competitions but also on the judging panels as Jade Jennings judged the Barista and Latte Art Competitions whilst Jack Allisey and Daniel Shadbolt judged Brewers Cup.

The winning competitors from all states will be competing in the National Championships at the Melbourne International Coffee Expo (MICE) 22nd – 24th March 2018 at the Melbourne Showgrounds. The National winners in the respective competitions will go onto to represent Australia in the world championships in Amsterdam,  19th – 21st June 2018.