Craig Simon of Veneziano Coffee makes Semi Finals of WBC

Craig Simon of Veneziano Coffee Roasters will compete in the Semi Finals of the 2018 World Barista Championship (WBC) on 22 June.

Craig competed in the first round of heats on 21 June at World of Coffee in Amsterdam, taking to station three with a 15-minute routine that had the judges drinking their milk beverages with straws and swirling Craig’s signature beverage like they were at a wine bar. 

After the completion of all round one performances, Craig is ranked seventh in the competition. Mathieu Theis of Switzerland is ranked first place, Agnieszka Rojewska of Poland is second, Takayuki Ishitani of Japan is third, John Gordon of New Zealand is fourth, Liliya Gadelshina of Russia is fifth, and Michelins Katsiavos of Greece is sixth. 

For his WBC routine, Craig took inspiration from the sommelier profession, who have developed a deductive tasting system that lets the drinker identify the provenance and quality of the wine they taste.

“Imagine you could drink any coffee right now and immediately identify its origin, the varietal and farm temperature, how it was processed and roasted. We can and I’m going to show you how,” Craig told the judges. 

This system identifies primary flavours from varietal and terroir, secondary flavours created during the winemaking process, and tertiary flavors created during ageing. From this information, a sommelier can immediately identify the wine because these flavours have been connected to the source.

Using this idea, Craig demonstrated his own coffee tasting matrix to identify where coffee flavour comes from and identify the province of the coffee by taste alone. 

“With this system, a coffee can be evaluated as a finished product. Flavour can be communicated clearly to anyone and a barista could engage the coffee consumer like a sommelier does with wine,” Craig said.

Craig presented the judges with two natural processed Geisha coffees, both from cool climates. 

For his espresso, he used a coffee from La Palma y El Tucan in Cundinamarc, Colombia. His milk coffee was produced by Gesha Village, located in Bench Maji, Ethiopia.    

“The primary flavours of these coffees are very similar because they are the same varietal and both farms have temperatures averaging around 17°C. The secondary flavours differ slightly because Gesha Village was dried for 30 days on raised beds in full sun. La Palma was dried for 27 days under parabolic tents and mechanical driers, because of mist during the day. Tertiary flavours have been intentionally kept similar for both coffees by roasting to the same profile,” Craig said.

For his espresso, Craig invited the judges to stir the beverage three times and assess the drink in two sips. In the first, he told the judges to expect primary aromas of yellow grapefruit and pineapple. Secondary aromas of apricot, peach, and mango, then tertiary aromas of sugar cane. In the second mouthful, he advised the judges to think about the structure of the drink: the taste balance, texture mineralogy, long length and high intensity. 

For his milk beverages, Craig asked the judges to taste through a straw for the first mouthful, put the straw all the way to the bottom of the cup, then put the straw back in the metal cup before taking a second sip to value taste balance and flavour.

“The straw evolved from trying to isolate and pinpoint the flavour characteristics while needing to serve you a milk course because the pH of milk buffers the citric and malic acids of primary flavours making them harder to taste,” Craig said. 

“Also, the Tertiary flavours from roasting bind with the oils and solids in the crema and sit on top of the drink and these dominate your taste experience when drinking through the crema. This is why using the straw helps you experience all the flavour in this drink in two mouthfuls.”

For his signature drink, Craig combined his inspiration from wine and vision for coffee. Together with the judges, they did a deductive tasting using the established wine language to identify the wine style he simulated, then identified what coffee he used. Craig simulated a youthful chardonnay from the Yarra Valley in Australia and revealed it was a Colombian espresso and six chilled shots the he used for his signature beverage. To this he added secondary and tertiary flavours, including 50 millilitres of non-alcoholic white grape juice, 4 grams of charred French oak, 0.1gram of zinc oxide to 20 millilitres of pure water, and 3 grams of elderberry. All the extra ingredients were charged with nitrogen to quickly infuse the aromatics and flavours into the grape juice, 

The result was a drink reminiscent of chardonnay that still keeps the integrity of the espresso’s flavours intact.

Craig will be the last barista to compete in the Semi Final at 3:55PM CEST on Friday 22 July, or 11:55:PM AEST. To watch his performance, tune into Livestream tonight.

 The other Semi-Final competitors, taking place in the following order include 

John Gordon of New Zealand

Mathieu Thesis of Switzerland

Athip Archalerttrakool of Thailand

Takayuki Ishitani of Japan

Joo Yeon of South Korea 

Michelins Katsiavos of Greece 

Lex Wenneker of The Netherlands

Liliya Gadelshina of Russia

Matt Winton of Sweden

Joshua Tarlo of the United Kingdom

Zenn Soon of Singapore

Keith Koay Zizheng of Malaysia

Agnieszka Rojewska of Poland

Cole Torode of Canada

Cole McBride of the United States

In other WBC news, Team Steam, featuring Craig Simon, has won the 2018 World Barista Championship Team Competition.

The Team Competition, introduced in 2016, puts each competitor on a team with five to six competitors from various national bodies for support and camaraderie. 

Each of the competitors still give an individual performance on stage, and the ranking of that individual performance contributes to their team’s score. They also work a shift together on the Team Bar, making coffee for fans and earning additional participation points. The team with the best average ranking at the end of the preliminary round is the winner, with all of the team members earning the opportunity to participate in a future WBC All-Stars event. The team also wins an additional placement slot in the semi-finals, which is awarded to the highest-scoring competitor on the team who did not already qualify for semi-finals.

To watch the Livestream performances of the Semi Finals, visit

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