The World Barista Championships are the Olympics of coffee – a battle royale between the most gunslinging coffee conjurors in the universe.
Now, for the first time, this high-octane competition is coming to Melbourne.
Melbourne has been trying and failing to win the bid to host the WBC for seven years. Crazy given we Melburnians know our city is the centre of the coffee world. Then again, until the inaugural Melbourne International Coffee Expo of last year, Australia didn’t have a proper platform to push its caffeine agenda.
“We’ve always had food and wine shows,” says MICE director Clint Hendy, “but coffee was always tucked in a corner.” What MICE did was gather Australia’s coffee industry together to distil what made Melbourne a town of bean fiends.
The 2012 Expo not only connected specialist roasters with keen consumers but had spectacular competitions run by the Australasian Specialty Coffee Association (AASCA).
This consumer-trade show so impressed WBC reps, Melbourne was a shoo-in to host the big event in 2013. Hendry deftly handballs the praise: “We couldn’t have got there without the support of the industry.” Or the consumers, who at last count in 2012 were necking 2.1 billion coffees a year in cafés nationwide.
The WBCs will showcase competitors from 50 countries pushing for the title of 2013 World Barista Champion. Be sure to cheer Australia’s entry, Matt Perger, 22. Third in the 2011 WBC, this coffee prodigy studied the dark art in Copenhagen and Norway before landing in Melbourne with Market Lane and, now, the St Ali group. Lachlan Ward from Sensory Lab (another St Ali venue) will be competing in the Brewer's Cup, where competitors showcase their mastery of pourovers and other filter coffee techniques.
The WBC also finds coffee roasters and equipment specialists touting wares, and every coffee buff in town jittering around the room. “There’s a bar, and lounges for anyone who’s had too much caffeine,” says Hendry.
How the competition works:
Find and grind. Toast and roast. Tamp and clamp. Sip and trip. Being a barista at the WBC is a serious business. For starters, it’s a race against the clock. Competitors (one finalist from 50 countries) have 15 minutes to prepare one cappuccino, one espresso and one fancy-pants signature drink for each of the four judges. That’s 12 drinks in 15 minutes! It’s not just about free-pouring a perfect rosetta or achieving the perfect taste either. Competitors need to know and communicate the story of their beans to justify why they’ve gone with their roasting style. Aside from this flare-bartending-meets-science-meets-art competition there’s the Brewers Cup – where competitors have ten minutes to prepare a brewed coffee, be it a siphon, or pour-over.
World Barista Championships are part of Melbourne International Coffee Expo 2013.