Anthony Douglas of Axil Coffee Roasters is the Australian Specialty Coffee Association (ASCA) Southern Region Vitasoy Barista Champion for the second year in a row.
Anthony took the top accolade with Gabrel Tan of Veneziano Coffee Roasters placing runner up and Jak Michael Ryan of St Ali in third place.
“I’m so happy with the win,” Anthony says. “This routine was really close to heart. It was centred around coffee making, which is essentially what I do. I’m not a roaster, I’m not a producer, but this routine embraced the skills and techniques behind the machine, things I do on a day-to-day basis, and I’ve experimented and refined what I do a lot.”
Anthony’s routine focused on his fascination with coffee and its ability to create a sensory experience that brings a genuine connection between the barista and the coffee drinker and create an exceptional experience.
The experimentation for his routine started six months ago, and he had been in a state of “constant refinement” ever since.
For his coffee, Anthony chose a natural anaerobic coffee, produced from Nestor Lasso of Finca El Diviso in Colombia.
“We tasted a bunch of samples from different producers. We came across this coffee quite early on. From the moment I first tasted it, it was genuinely an exciting coffee. I had never experienced anything like it before,” Anthony says. “Lots of purple fruit, lots of red wine-like qualities. We tasted it again in sampling and we felt it really ticked all the boxes. It’s just an exciting coffee. It’s big and punchy but clean at the same time.”
Anthony says this chosen coffee worked well for espresso and his milk-based courses, both featuring the coffee’s high level of intensity.
For his signature drink, Anthony’s presentation centred around four big decision he made for his competition routine, and used that as inspiration for his signature drink ingredients.
One ingredient included a lacto-fermented pomegranate. This involved fermenting the pomegranate and straining the syrup, related to Anthony’s choice to source anaerobic natural coffee. “I wanted something with big, intense flavours that were obvious and easy for the judges to pick up,” Anthony says.
The second ingredient was a Colombian honey to highlight the sweetness Anthony achieved through the experimental way he distributed the coffee.
The third ingredient was a date syrup to highlight the butterscotch note he achieved in the milk course where he made the decision to curate a milk blend.
The fourth ingredient was a juniper reduction. “In the espresso there were beautiful red wine tannins. Juniper has beautiful complex tannins as well, so that was the inspiration behind using that ingredient,” Anthony says.
He will now put his focus to the ASCA Vitasoy Australian Barista Championship, taking place from 17 to 20 August at the Melbourne Meat Market in North Melbourne, Victoria.
Already, Anthony says he’s got a few things up his sleeve in preparation for the national event.
“We’re going to work on the foundation we have. We don’t obviously have that much time, but I’ll take the judge’s feedback into account, try to jazz up the routine with a few more props, but I feel great. I was really in control this year. I left no stone unturned. I put everything on the table, no regrets.”
Anthony was runner up in the 2020 Australian Barista Championship. He admits the result waws “a bit crushing” because he didn’t have control over the result.
“[Placing second in the national competition] hit me a little bit emotionally and I felt a little bit bitter towards competition. But, with a little bit of time I thought, ‘no, I’m going to try get in there, improve, and get better’,” he says.
“I went through a process of growth, learning and improvement over the past two years and it’s all worked out.”
The winner of the 2022 Australian Barista Championship will take to the stage at the World Barista Championship, taking place at the Melbourne International Coffee Expo from 27 to 30 September at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre.
“Worlds would be insane. I’m incredible grateful for the support I’ve received so far. I would love to win and bring a bit more attention to the company [Axil Coffee Roasters]. I think what we do is great, so it would be a great way to add value back to the business,” says Anthony, who has worked at Axil Coffee Roasters for the past nine years.
“A massive thanks to my boss Dave [Makin, Director of Axil Coffee Roasters]. He’s been an incredible mentor. Thanks to Matt Crowely, Jack Simpson, they’ve been a huge support from day one. They’ve spent an enormous amount of time and energy into helping me out. I couldn’t have done it without them, it’s a team effort and I’m very lucky to have them all.”