Following an intense two-day event, Foodco Group has crowned Muffin Break Penrith and Jamaica Blue Warringah Mall the winners of its tenth annual barista competition.
Held at Foodco’s Centre of Retail Excellence in Sydney from 22 – 23 June, two finalists from each state of Australia were selected to compete in the annual event, out of 340 baristas across Muffin Break bakery cafés, and 166 from Jamaica Blue cafés.
A rigorous program of four challenges were designed to test and strengthen coffee standards across Muffin Break and Jamaica Blue stores.
Entrants were required to participate in two rounds prior to the finals as part of the selection process. Round one required baristas to pour three latte art designs in three minutes. The top three entrants from each region were automatically entered into the Semi Final. State managers then judged the competing baristas for the top 16 finalist positions.
In this final race to the finish line, baristas had 14 minutes to present the judges with 13 cups of coffee, including a random mix of macchiatos, flat whites, long blacks, lattes, cappuccinos, piccolos, double shot, and soy milk drinks, in addition to producing a signature latte art design.
Baristas were critiqued on extraction time, temperature, creativity, contrast, foam and milk quality as well as symmetry of latte art. The Judges consisted of experienced coffee industry professionals including a sensory judge, technical judge and 2016 Pura Australian Latte Art Champion Ben Morrow.
“We’ve updated the format of our competition in order to challenge our baristas on their creativity, latte art, sensory, taste, team work and communication skills,” said Jeremy Regan, Head of Muffin Break and Jamaica Blue Coffee.
After a hard-fought battle, baristas Emily Platts and Helia Valenzuela from Muffin Break Penrith in New South Wales were crowned overall champions, in addition to Hwasuk Choi and Alex Tanupatarachi of Jamaica Blue Warringah Mall in NSW.
Victorian baristas Michael Chen and Lina Zhang of Muffin Break Fountain Gate 2 placed runner up, along with Western Australia’s Connie Chow and Yun Ling Wan of Jamaica Blue Carousel.
Queensland baristas Robert Schatz and Shofia Nicholson of Muffin Break’s Toowoomba Grand Central placed third, in addition to Karolina Kula and Joanne Kelly of Jamaica Blue’s Carindale store in QLD.
“We’ve witnessed the highest standard of coffee making to date at this years championships, which is testament to the continued training and operational standards set at Foodco Group,” said Simon Au-Yeung, Coffee Training Facilitator.
The judges praised the top two winners for their strong skills in customer service and technical ability. Both duos scored high on flavour, volume and appearance of coffees served to the event judges. Points were also awarded based on technical knowledge and skill in operating the espresso machine and grinder, as well as the presentation of cups, glasses and accessories.
With a focus on training, the event included a series of engaging workshops for finalists to gain new coffee skills and push the boundaries of their coffee knowledge. Several coffee professionals were invited to talk on alternative brewing and at supplier workshops, while sixth-place World Latte Art Champion Ben hosted a latte art masterclass.