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Meet the 2020 Australian Coffee Champions!

The Australian Specialty Coffee Association (ASCA) 2020 Condesa Co Lab Australian Coffee Championships were held from 11 to 13 March and, for the first time in the event’s history, was livestreamed to a global audience.

The competition included the 2020 Australian Vitasoy Barista Championship, Sttoke Brewers Cup, Pauls Professional Latte Art Championship, Monin Coffee in Good Spirits (CIGS) Championship, and TCX Cup Tasters Championship.

Australian Coffee Champions
Hugh Kelly of Ona Coffee is the 2020 ASCA Australian Vitasoy Barista Champion.

Hugh Kelly of Ona Coffee has won the 2020 ASCA Australian Vitasoy Barista Championship. Anthony Douglas of Axil Coffee Roasters was runner-up and Lena Richrath of Five Senses Coffee placed third.

This marks Hugh’s third win at the competition, previously claiming the title in 2016 and 2017.

In his presentation, Hugh presented Coffea eugenioides to the judges, a different species of coffee to the more common Arabica and Robusta, which he described as having a Stevia-like sweetness.

“I first tasted this coffee at the same farm [Inmacaluda in Colombia] that Sasa [Sestic, Ona Coffee Founder] used to win [the 2015 World Barista Championship]. We visited them after he won and they had this coffee on the table. It was a washed version and it tasted like corn tea, with practically no acidity. It was so weird and really split the room, some people gave it 94 points, others 80. I didn’t know how I felt about it,” Hugh tells BeanScene.

“That came from inexperience – not being able to see through things like how some roasters can cup a coffee and go ‘the coffee is great but the roast profile is wrong’. I thought of it as a novelty and it took me five years to realise I’d looked at this thing wrong the whole time.”

After several years of cupping different coffees, Hugh says he came to realise there was hidden potential buried within Coffea eugenioides, which inspired the ‘light in the dark’ theme of his presentation.

“There was tropical fruit in the coffee, but it was amongst a lot of other things I’ve experienced before in other coffees from around the world with poor fermentation or other issues,” he explains. “As I cupped Eugenioides again, I was able to turn those things off, and it made me realise how sweet the coffee is and that there’s some incredible flavours in there.

“We’d been doing work with a laboratory in Switzerland with a man named Professor Jahan, and from that, I understood that you have compounds that are ‘above threshold’ and those that are ‘below threshold’ in coffee. It’s the idea behind fermentation as well – those tropical fruit notes are in the coffee, they just weren’t dominate, so I just needed to neutralise the others.”

The coffee was fermented in an open tank for six days with a yeast not commonly used in coffee fermentation.

Ona team cheers for Charlie
The Ona Coffee team cheered loudly as Charlie Chu was announced as the Cup Tasters Champion.

For his signature drink, Hugh paired the coffee with a macadamia cream, cold-pressed bravo apples (fermented in the same yeast as the coffee), and a passionfruit vapour. The shots were extracted at 15 grams over chilled metal balls in a process known as compound chilling.

“When you have a hot liquid like espresso, it loses those aromatic compounds into the air, but if you chill it immediately, those volatiles don’t get released and remain in the coffee,” Hugh says.

“The majority of coffee extraction really happens in the first 15 grams of espresso extraction, and the majority after that is dilution. By chilling those first 10 to 15 grams, depending on the coffee, you’re getting so much more vibrancy and fruit flavours, without sharpness, creating a more distinct flavour profile.

“This particular coffee didn’t have a lot of acidity, but compound chilling was able to lift the perception of that acidity, so it made perfect sense for this coffee.”

For his milk coffee, Hugh used another lesser consumed coffee species, Coffea Liberica, from My Liberica Coffee in Malaysia. It was paired with milk from Australia dairy supplier Riverina Fresh.

“I tasted the Liberica six months ago and it tasted like salami, durian, and cheese. I was like ‘the texture, sweetness, and quality of acid – structurally, this is incredible. The bitterness is perfect, there’s so much depth and length. This could be amazing as a milk coffee,” Hugh says.

“As soon as you click into that way of thinking, there’s so much that can be done and bringing that out in a routine was all I wanted to do.”

The coffee was semi-pulped and fermented for 30 days before being finished with honey processing. Hugh says the longer they fermented the coffee, the better it tasted, and he looks forward to taking these two coffee species even further when he reached the world stage.

“People keep saying ‘the earlier it is the better’ for the next World Coffee Championships, but with COVID-19, who knows when and what’s going to be happening. I see [the World barista Championship delay] as an opportunity to keep pushing this concept.”

carlos brewers
Carlos Escobar of Toby’s Estate Coffee Roasters is the 2020 Australian Sttoke Brewers Cup Champion.

Carlos Escobar of Toby’s Estate Coffee Roasters won the ASCA 2020 Australian Sttoke Brewers Cup, breaking Ona Coffee’s sweep of the competition. Devin Loong of Ona Coffee placed second and David Train of Seek Coffee came third.

This was Carlos’s first time competing at the national level in the Brewers Cup, where he went up against esteemed and experienced competition.

“I was considered an underdog, with all of the more experienced competitors the favourites to win. I hope this shows everyone that you can still win even, if you go against the favourites,” Carlos says.

In his Open Service round, Carlos prepared a thermal shock anaerobic washed Geisha from Finca El Paraïso in Cauca, Colombia. Thermal shock washing involved using high temperature water during the washed process followed by cold water ensure the beans better absorb flavours and aromas created during fermentation.

“It had all the explosiveness and intensity of a natural process but all the clarity and high acidity of a washed,” Carlos says.

Coming from a Colombian coffee farming family, Carlos says it his dream to compete at a national level with a Colombian coffee.

“Over the last decade, Colombian farmers have had a very tough time. My dad had to abandon coffee because of the low prices, and he’s now in other kinds of crops like avocado,” Carlos says.

“Competing with a Colombian coffee, showing that Colombia can still produce one of the best coffees in the world is an incredible feeling.”

While he’s not sure if he will present the same coffee when he attends the next World Brewers Cup, Carlos tells BeanScene he will continue to share his personal story.

“I’ve been working on this for the last 18 months, dreaming of this moment, and this is just my dream come true,” he says.

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Victor Vu of Ona Coffee Melbourne is the ASCA 2020 Australian Pauls Professional Latte Art Champion.

Victor Vu of Ona Coffee Melbourne won the ASCA 2020 Australian Pauls Professional Latte Art Championship, with Zhao Ting Wu of Cote Terra Coffee Roasters finishing second and Jibbi Little of Jibbijug coming third.

“No words can express the emotion I felt when I heard when my name get announced,” Victor says.

“I sent the message that I wanted to through my coffee cups: during this tough time with the pandemic, everyone had their own battles, but together we overcame this.”

Victor’s designs – a Spartan warrior, Taurus bull, and Peter Pan for his designer pattern – were intended to convey a sense of strength and unity, following a difficult period for many in the coffee industry.

“I like the Spartan because it has the spirit that everyone needs and the Taurus, for me, is about power,” Victor says.

“Peter Pan is a really naughty guy, but he’s also kind to others. I used etching for the hat, feather, and detail of the face, making that Peter Pan more lively and realistic.”

Despite winning the 2020 Southern Region Latte Art Championship, Victor says he realised lifting the difficulty level and harmony, size, and positioning of his designs could multiply the scores he received in those areas.

“I wanted to upgrade my designs to a higher level, so the judges could understand what I’m trying to say and the message I want to send out to everyone,” Victor says.

“I compared my original designs to pictures on the internet and tried to move things around and add details. It was really stressful, and I struggled at first. I wanted to give up, but luckily I didn’t and after a few weeks, I finalised my pattern and kept pouring until I could do it consistently.”

charlie cup tasters
Kyoungha “Charlie” Chu of Ona Coffee Melbourne is the ASCA 2020 Australian TCX Cup Tasters Champion.

Kyoungha “Charlie” Chu of Ona Coffee Melbourne won the ASCA 2020 Australian TCX Cup Tasters Championship with a perfect 8/8 score in two minutes and 37 seconds. Frankie Shi placed second with 8/8 in six minutes and three seconds, and Sheng-Wei Wu placed third with 7/8 in two minutes, fifty-three seconds.

“It’s unbelievable. When I realised I’d won, my heart exploded,” Charlie says.

Charlie says training to a higher skill difficulty than what’s required for the competition helped him to strengthen his palate.

“I always use blends when I practise, not single origins. A blend is more complex and keeps changing, and because it’s more difficult when I practice, it actually feels easier for me in the competition,” he says.

“I’ve been practising for the last two years, not every day but consistently, since February 2019. I wasn’t sure about my palate, even though I had three or four years of barista experience, so I wanted to improve myself.”

Though he’d been practicing for two years, Charlie only changed his diet 10 days ahead of the competition to include no spicy food and less salt so his palate would be ready. He recommends other people in the coffee industry who want to build their skillset themselves picking up a cupping spoon and give the competition a go.

“This is a good discipline because it challenges you to find you palate level and ability, and take it further by practising the triangulations,” Charlie says.

Danny CIGS
Danny Wilson of Ona Coffee is the 2020 Australian Coffee in Good Spirits Champion.

Danny Wilson of Ona Coffee reclaimed his title as the ASCA 2020 Australian Monin CIGS Champion for the third straight year. Mook Liengraksa of was runner-up and Corey Williams placed third.

Danny tells BeanScene he’s been working on his cocktails since the 2019 World Coffee in Good Spirits Championship in mid-2019.

“[Of all my CIGS performances,] this is the one I definitely worked hardest towards,” Danny says.

“I was pretty much ready to go, and had this designer drink worked out that was all about preparing drinks for large amounts of people, and then [because of COVID-19] that couldn’t really happen anymore. I had to revaluate the idea and realised that it wasn’t just good for large groups of people. When we could start seeing friends again, it became a good opportunity to make it for small groups of people and have special moments with coffee cocktails.”

That drink, the Espresso Memento, combines coffee with passionfruit gin, Licor 43, and sparkling apple juice, with a bit of carbonation, to create a tropical spritz style drink that Danny says could be used in place of champagne for celebrating.

Danny’s unnamed warm drink is built around the idea of something nice, warming, and uplifting that can be enjoyed in winter.

“It’s like an alternative to a schnapps, with lower alcohol but is still full flavoured. It’s built around coffee, apple cordial, Licor 43, and warm baking spices,” Danny says.

His Irish Coffee used the same coffee, roasted slightly differently, then build on that experience with different whiskeys and types of sugar.

“I used a bourbon and a scotch, and brown sugar and honey, to contrast these ingredients so with each sip, you get a different flavour,” he says.

“I work as a roaster and think of these cocktails like building a roast blend. There are different components that do different things. The coffee needs to serve as a base note, so I’m looking for something with a rich, intense body, and interesting aromas and flavours as well.”

brewers waiting for carlos
The Brewers Cup finalists patiently waited as Carlos was running a little late.

The 2021 World Coffee In Good Spirits Championship, World Latte Art Championship, and World Coffee Roasting Championship are scheduled to take place at the Taiwan International Coffee Show from 19 to 22 November 2021.

The time and date of the 2021 World Barista Championship, World Brewers Cup, and World Cup Tasters Championship are to be announced by World Coffee Events.