2018 Australian Latte Art Champion Shinsaku Fukayama: the samurai barista

Shinsaku Fukayama

It’s been quite the year. I finally lived my dream of representing Australia at the World Latte Art Championships (WLAC) and the experience was everything I could have hoped for.

I may not have won the title I went there to win, placing fourth instead, but I met so many amazing competitors from around the world and had the most incredible time. 

From a young age, I’ve always had a competitive streak. I started in the coffee industry just four and half years ago. Before coming to Australia I was a chef in a Chinese and Japanese restaurant for 10 years, but prior to that I was a professional snowboarder. I learned to surf at age six, then discovered snowboarding and I never looked back. I competed on the international circuit in more than 200 events. I had sponsors and I trained hard.

A knee injury at 24 years of age stopped my career short, and that’s when I discovered coffee. I Googled where the best coffee in the world was, and the computer told me it was Melbourne, so I came here and I haven’t looked back. I’ve worked up the ranks at ST. ALi from a kitchenhand to barista, and fell in love with latte art and competitions. 

I really wanted to improve my skills and become a strong barista, so I entered the ASCA Latte Art regional competition. I competed in the nationals four times, endured two gut-wrenching second-place finishes in 2016 and 2017, but 2018 was my turn. Finally, I won. It felt so amazing to be the Australian Champion. I was happy but I wasn’t satisfied. I really wanted to become the world’s number one latte artist, a champion on the world stage. 

Shinsaku Fakayama’s
Caffeinated King Rooster.

I was honoured to represent Australia at the WLAC, but I worked hard for it. I trained non-stop for the past five years, and close to 23-hour days in the month before the WLAC. Training was tough. I failed so many times. In the beginning I was always going overtime, but somehow I learned how to perfect each pattern and still have enough time in my routine to clean up. I also incorporated exercise and yoga into my training, which I believe is so good for your mental health.

At the WLAC I had just 10 minutes to produce one latte art design at the art bar, my snail. I then competed in the preliminary round and presented two designs to two judges. My scores were high enough to make the finals, so I had the chance to show the judges all the designs I had worked so hard on: my free pour Baby Elephant picking a banana, Queen Bee, and designer Koala pattern.

I’m thrilled that my patterns did what they were designed to do – make people happy. I didn’t quite get the result I wanted, but I’m proud of placing fourth in the world. I couldn’t have done it without a team of amazing people, including the support of the ST. ALi crew and my beautiful wife and coach Momo.

I really appreciate the ASCA competition. Through this experience I’ve improved my skills and knowledge, and become stronger and more confident my life. I will keep going and who knows, I might even join the Barista competition next year.

This article features in the MICE 2019 showguide: A coffee lover’s guidebook.  To see the FULL article, pick up your copy of the showguide at MICE.

Shinsaku Fukayama of ST. ALi is the 2018 ASCA Australian Latte Art Champion.

Shinsaku Fukayama