Australia’s Richest Barista returns for its second edition at MICE2024

Australia’s Richest Barista

Australia’s Richest Barista competition is returning for its second edition at MICE2024, as Head Judge Jeremy Regan details how each competitor can rise above the pack.

A deafening roar from the crowd could be heard as Rawirat Techasitthanet, known online as Jibbi Little, was deemed Australia’s Richest Barista for 2023 after a thrilling finish to the cup tasting round.

The competition captivated attendees as some of the country’s top baristas gathered in a knockout-style tournament as they fought for their share of $40,000 worth of prize money.

Australia’s Richest Barista is returning to MICE in 2024 for its second edition, alongside Head Judge Jeremy Regan.

“The competition is all the judges looking for the all-round package of a coffee professional,” Jeremy says.

“We’re looking for someone who can obviously make a good coffee but can also be creative in their designs and who can taste and detect coffee types quickly and efficiently,” he says.

The first round of the competition has baristas producing six coffees in under 10 minutes: two espressos, two milk-based drinks, and two signature beverages that must incorporate a flavour option from competition sponsor Naked Syrups.

For Jeremy and the judging panel, taste and consistency is the key to success. Each pair of drinks must be identical to ensure the judges can assess the flavour properly.

“There will be two sensory judges for this round, and we don’t want them to have different experiences with each sample,” Jeremy says.

While taste is the dominant factor for the espresso samples, Jeremy says the consistency of the foam is vital for the milk- based drinks.

Jeremy adds the judges are usually in agreement regarding the taste quality of the espresso and milk-based drinks, however it’s the signature beverages that produce the unique results.

While Jeremy is excited to see what creations each competitor concocts, he says the judges still need to taste the coffee element of the drink without any overbearing sweetness.

“We’re looking for something unique, but not necessarily out of the coffee realm,” he says.

In this stage, competitors verbally explain their actions to the audience and the judges as they put together their creations. Jeremy says the presentation aspect of the first round is a factor for the judges beyond the final product.

“We love to see a bit of showmanship, which is why we felt it belonged in the scoresheet,” he says.

The second round, latte art, will have the same format as last year. Like the first round, competitors must make six creations in the span of 10 minutes: two traditional patterns, two free pour patterns, and two designer patterns.

For the traditional patterns, each competitor will spin a wheel to determine which design they must do, including a tulip, swan, heart, and rosetta, among others. The spin will take place prior to the 10-minute timer starting, so competitors have a chance to plan ahead.

For the free pour and designer patterns, competitors can choose any design they want. The key difference between these two patterns is the use of additional tools. The designer patterns can incorporate any colouring or etching the barista wants, while the free pour must strictly stick to pouring milk from a jug only.

The key in this round, according to Jeremy, is to make sure each pair of designs is perfectly identical, right down to the placement of the handle to the right of the judges.

“We look at everything,” Jeremy says. “We don’t want to see any blurring in the patterns, and we need to see a clear definition between colours.”

Jeremy understands that each competitor is skilled in latte art, which is why each one needs to set themselves apart from the pack.

“It’s great for us to see something new and original in this round,” he says. “We’re looking for really memorable patterns.”

To create a fine work of latte art, a barista needs to have calm and steady hands to effortlessly guide each movement. This can be difficult to do with $25,000 on the line, which is why Jeremy believes this should factor in to each competitor’s preparation.

“Get some of your colleagues and friends to pretend to be judges,” he says. “This will get you to work under a fair bit of pressure as they look over you, but this is a useful way to practise for when there’s lights and cameras all around you on the stage.”

The third and final round, the cup tasting, provides the competition’s climactic finish. Each finalist is presented with five sets of three coffee samples. The task is to taste each sample and pick the odd one out of the set, and to place it forward.

Once each competitor finishes, the cup reveals begin. One by one, they will lift the cup they have chosen to be the outlier, revealing if they have picked correctly based on whether there is a marking on the bottom of the cup. The finalist that guesses the most correct samples in the shortest time span will become Australia’s Richest Barista.

Jeremy recalls last year’s competition as one of the more thrilling reveals he has seen in his time as a judge. Visitors watched with bated breath as Jibbi and second-place finisher Pirada Tungbenjaphol each guessed their first four samples correctly, leaving the final cups as the determining factor for victory. The crowd gasped as Pirada revealed a correct fifth cup, and the attention turned to Jibbi, who finished in a faster time. When she revealed a correct final cup, the crowd erupted in applause, and Jibbi walked away $25,000 richer.

“It doesn’t matter how well you did in the first two rounds compared to the other finalists, as long as you are able to produce in the final round,” says Jeremy.

He says this guessing game has no luck involved, but rather hours of training for a high-pressure moment like this. Like the latte art, Jeremy says performing under pressure is the key. He suggests each competitor should practise with a timer at hand.

“The only way you can get better at cup tasting is by practising over and over,” he says.

Jeremy, who works as the Head of Coffee at JamaicaBlue, has been in the coffee industry for almost 30 years. He has been a judge of specialty coffee competitions since 2007.

“I was networking in the United Kingdom with the Specialty Coffee Association, and they said that they needed an extra judge for a competition, and that us Australians know plenty about coffee,” he says. “From there, I went to a coffee trade show in Switzerland and undertook an accreditation to become an official judge of specialty coffee.”

Jeremy says Australia’s Richest Barista stands out as one of the more unique competitions he has been a part of.

“It’s got more of a relaxed, Australian vibe, which I feel suits the competitors and the audience,” he says. “I was fortunate enough to taste some amazing coffees last year, and so I’m excited to be returning for 2024.”

Jeremy believes visitors of the 2024 edition can expect another thrilling finish to the cup tasting.

“There’s truly nothing like it, when the suspense builds as each cup is lifted,” says Jeremy. “The best part is seeing just how quickly some people are able to finish the whole set, while also remembering that there’s still the reveals to come.

“I hope we get another close finish like that this year, because it really helps build a great atmosphere.”

This article appears in the 2024 MICE Showguide. Read more HERE.

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