Canberra: the new coffee capital

When you ask a foreigner what the capital of Australia is, they often answer Melbourne or Sydney. They look perplexed when you tell them it’s Canberra, one of the world’s lesser known capital cities. Now try and tell them that the country’s capital is also putting Australia’s roasting capabilities on the world map.

If the latest results from the Australian International Coffee Awards (AICA) are anything to go by, it might be time to start telling this story.

In March, Bean!Roasters by Cosmorex in Canberra was awarded the title of AICA Champion Australian Roaster for the second year running, placing the Australian Capital Territory in the spotlight for outstanding coffee production.

In fact, out of the six Champion trophies awarded at the fifth annual AICA presentation gala, there were no Champion winners from Melbourne at all, with Queensland the next best performing state with three Champion trophies.

Bean!Roasters by Cosmorex not only took out most prestigious roasting award of the night, but won Champion Espresso for its Panama Red Bourbon. The judges praised this coffee for its “aromatic appeal and sweet apple and apricot juicy flavours”, in addition to a total 21 medals awarded to Bean!Roasters across its range of products.

“Last year we were very humbled to win the Champion Australian Roaster award, but to do it twice in a row against record entries is extremely humbling,” says Bean!Roasters General Manager Peter Bragg. “We only stand in this position because of the exceptional standard of this industry. There are so many competitors out there, which means our young team has to work harder and harder at what we do. I help manage and evolve the business, but it’s all thanks to Directors Anne and Attilio Sciannimanica who have allowed me to do that. This honour is a massive attribution to them and the dedication and passion of our incredible team.”

Three years ago Bean!Roasters entered their coffee in the AICA and didn’t win a single accolade. Peter says the company needed to face constructive criticism in order to evolve the company’s product.

“Looking back then, there’s no way in the world we ever thought we’d be standing in this position now. We, as a team, and a country of roasters, are part of an extraordinary industry. Australia is at the forefront of the coffee world, and it’s on the verge of exploding.”

Attilio’s father started the family business in the 1950s. Now, with three generations of family experience and a mix of skills and hard work, the company is reaping the benefits of its multi award-winning blends.

Peter says he invested in quality products and people as a strong component of the company’s development, including the addition of a coffee scientist, investment of a Bfc Aviator espresso machine, and a Brambati coffee roaster. Most unique is the company’s philosophy of making their prize-winning coffees affordable to cafés and everyday consumers.

“You can buy our Panama Red Bourbon off the shelf for $20 for 250 grams. It’s available every day of the year. We want to show the café market and the public from all walks of life that award-winning coffee can be affordable and approachable,” Peter says.

“The majority of the general public can’t afford to try an expensive Panama Geisha. Instead, we take everyday relatively low-priced green beans and allow our Master Roaster Mick Walker – who’s been with us 10 years – to turn it into gold. Good coffee doesn’t have to be expensive or out of reach.”

Peter agrees Canberra’s roasting scene is thriving, with Ona Coffee and its entourage of champion baristas also helping the city become known as a coffee destination and not just a Parliamentary hub.

“The more quality coffee Canberra can produce, the more educated consumers become in what’s possible from this tiny territory. It’s a win-win,” Peter says.

This year, the AICA awarded a total of 247 AICA medals, including nine gold, 70 silver and 168 bronze.

Queensland’s Bellissimo Coffee took out the trifecta of Champion awards, including Champion Cold Brew, Champion Direct Trade/Micro Lot Coffee for the second year running for its CHNO Panama, and Champion Milk-Based Coffee for its Mocha Java.

“There’s no secret recipe to what we do. In many ways we’re still very novice at this. We just continue to do what we do best with optimism. There are so many amazing roasters in our industry. If you stay still it can be dangerous. We have to continue evolving and developing,” says Bellissimo Director Mark Bignell.

“I put our success down to our passionate team. They have a pursuit to be the best and they enjoy what they do, and we share that joy with our customers.”

The AICA received almost 300 milk-based coffee entries this year.

AICA Head Judge and certified World Barista Championship Sensory Judge Melissa Caia says this is a strong indication of consumer preferences among the Australian marketplace.

“Ninety-five per cent of Australian consumers drink milk-based coffee. It’s our staple. It’s how the majority of café businesses are making their profit, and it’s what consumers want,” she says. “These awards are a great annual assessment of consumer trends, and it’s cemented in the fact that the milk-based category remains dominant.”

The popularity of soy-based coffees was also on the rise this year, with the AICA receiving 26 entries, although it didn’t award any champion winners.

“Soy-based coffee is growing, and it’s clear that roasters are getting better at adjusting their roast profiles to suit. Coffees roasted with chocolate notes tend to do very well, more so than coffee with fruity undertones, that highlights the soy more than the coffee,” says Grinders Coffee’s Master Roaster Giuseppe Cianchi.

Filter coffee was another popular category this year with the AICA receiving 56 entries. It awarded the ultimate title of Champion Filter Coffee to Aroma Coffee Roasters in New South Wales for its Destinations Panama.

Conducted by The Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria (RASV), the AICA is the first and only international coffee roasting competition in Australia.

A panel of 43 industry experts assessed the record entries while Head Barista Adam Metelmann ensured each of the 820 coffees making their way to the judges was prepared as precisely as the last.

This year the AICA received 180 international entries, including coffees from New Zealand, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Canada, United States, and United Kingdom.

“This significant increase in the number of entries is a testament to the quality of the competition and its importance to the coffee roasting industry both in Australia and internationally,” says RASV CEO Mark. “The AICA provides entrants with credible benchmarking of products, feedback from an expert judging panel, and market differentiation with the seal of quality an award represents. We look forward to another year of innovation, excellence, and exceptional coffee production.”

Entries for the 2018 AICA will open later in the year.

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