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.
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.