Representing Australia in the 2021 World Barista Championship, Hugh Kelly of Ona Coffee has advanced to the Semi Finals following his impressive routine which he says took him three years to bring to fruition.
Calling “time” at 14 minutes and 56 seconds into his routine, Hugh presented the judges with a clear and detailed first-round routine, using visual aids to introduce the judges to the species of Coffea eugenoides, the use of frozen metal rocks, compound chilling, Eugenioides fermentation, galaxy hops and distilling.
Hugh told the judges it was on a visit to Finca Inmaculada Coffee Farm in Colombia on 7 August 2015 when he first cupped a coffee that tasted unlike any other.
“As I tasted it, it was unbelievably sweet. It reminded me of Stevia sweetener, which has a clean refined sweetness, similar to icing sugar. The second time around the table, the coffee completely changed. It turned to savoury and vegetal [in its flavour notes]. But I knew that sweetness and gentle acidity was the bones for an incredible espresso,” Hugh told the judges.
Hugh discovered this coffee, Coffea eugenoides, was one of the only non-Arabica species he had ever tried.
To understand why the coffee cooled the way it did, Hugh connected with microbiologist Christian Hanson in Demand to dramatically transform its flavour profile.
As such for Hugh’s espresso coffee, he used compound chilling, a technique he developed with Zurich University of Science to brighten Eugenioides’ flavour profile by running the espresso over frozen metal rocks.
Hugh rapidly chilled the first 12 grams of his espresso, the portion where he says Eugenioides gives the majority of aroma volatile compound, and results in a pink guava note in the espresso.
In addition to guava, Hugh told the judges to expect notes of fresh pineapple and passionfruit, and Stevia sweetener. This medium-weight coffee has a syrupy mouthfeel and a long finish that reminds Hugh of the sensation of eating a fresh white grape.
For his signature drinks, Hugh used the frozen metal rocks on his drink vessels to cool the espresso shots to 23°C.
To avoid the vegetal, savoury notes Hugh first tasted with Coffea Eugenioides, he worked with Denmark’s Christian to select a species of non-Saccharomyces yeast, which is proven to produce fruity essences. He flew to Colombia and added the yeast to a sealed tank of Eugenioides cherries at 18°C. After six days, Hugh said the tank smelt like “pure tropical fruit punch”.
To highlight the potential of Eugenioides, Hugh used a distilling technique, using 90 per cent water and 10 per cent of galaxy hops to distil the aromatic compounds without savoury tannins.
He added 12 millilitres of the galaxy hops distillate to his espresso to highlight orange citrus notes and 95°C water which he poured over tinned pinnacle syrup to release its aroma volatile compounds. He added three millilitres of fructose simply syrup for balance and charged the drink with nitrogen dioxide to evolve the texture into something that reminded Hugh of whipped cream.
He told the judges to expect a taste profile of ripe pinnacle, fresh orange, and vibrant, juicy acidity. “I hope you enjoy the clarity of tropical fruits. I’ve never tasted anything like this,” he said.
Because of Eugenioides’ delicate tropical fruits which are easily lost in the fat and sugar of milk, for his milk course, he used a 50/50 blend of Coffea Eugenoides with Coffea Liberica from Malaysia, a coffee he says it too often overlooked.
Hugh said it was because of Liberica’s thicker mucilage layer that enabled him to safely ferment the cherry for 30 days to give an intense ripe banana flavour with no biproducts.
Both Eugenioides and Liberica have low chlorogenic acid, which meant he could roast the coffee quickly at only 8 per cent development to retain the tropical fruit compounds in the bean. As such, Hugh had the ability to use less milk, thereby choosing to use 45 grams of Riverina Fresh milk for a clean flavour in ever sip.
For this course, Hugh had the judges taste the coffee at 54°C, and noted flavours of ripe banana, caramel and 55 per cent chocolate mousse.
He concluded his routine by highlighting the need to believe in the potential of underutilised species such as Liberica and Eugenioides.
“To think there are 124 or more coffee species that are still out there, often unprotected and could just disappear. Our time is right now to discover these coffees bring out their potential and enjoy them together,” Hugh said.
Post-interview, he said this was the first routine he had truly felt was a reflection of him.
“This work is something I really believe in. I’m super happy,” he said.
Also joining Hugh Kelly in the WBC Semi Finals are:
Emi Fukahori, Switzerland
Dawn Chan, Hong Kong
Tatiana Fuks, Russia
Martin Shabaya, Kenya
Daniele Ricci, Italy
Boram Um, Brazil
Michaela Ruazol-Recera, United Arab Emirates
Andrea Allen, United States
Mikael Jasin, Indonesia
Diego Campos, Colombia
Vojtech Ruzicka, Czech Republic
Jill Hoff, Canada
Paul Ross, United Kingdom
Wojciech Tysler, Ireland
Hyeonyeong Bang, South Korea
The 2021 World Barista Championship is hosted in Italy’s Host Milan, taking place from 22 to 26 October.