Get to know former World Latte Art Champion Caleb Cha

Caleb Cha

Former World Latte Art Champion Caleb Cha shares what he’s been up to and his plans for the future.

Q: When and where was your first job in the coffee industry?

A: I was struggling and hustling to survive until I learnt about coffee at William Angliss Institute in 2008. Soon after I got a job at a café in Melbourne’s CBD, pumping out 10 kilograms a day. It was a great opportunity to immerse myself in Melbourne-style coffee.

Q: How did winning the 2015 World Latte Art Championship further your coffee career?

A: I always questioned how I could go further after the World Latte Art Championship. As a micro-roaster I was also self-conscious about what else I could do to be like big-name roasters. Then I found peace in knowing my customers always loved and trusted my coffee by telling me it’s the best coffee they’ve ever had.

Q: What have you been up to in the coffee world in the past year?

A: I set up my café, Tone, in Prahran in September 2023. I had to start from scratch as the space was not previously registered by the council. I’ve learned so much about setting up a café business – from beginning to end.

Q: What has the process of opening a café been like?

A: It was a total mess when I started. I had to enrol in food business courses, and organise plumbers, electricians, and carpenters for a fit-out. I then had to sort out equipment delivery, wastewater regulation check-ups, documents, invoices, and taxes – the list is endless.

Q: What’s been your favourite part?

A: I designed the shop myself using a 3D program. It looked divine on the display, however, I wasn’t sure how it would be projected in real-life. Once the fit-out was done, it all came together and I realised my dream had become reality.

Q: What is your most popular menu item?

A: It would definitely be the Tiger Bomb, an espresso-based iced drink finished with cream and orange zest. Once you taste it you won’t be able to stop drinking it. It’s gone viral online and we’re currently selling over one hundred cups every day.

Q: What’s your favourite part of being a barista?

A: Starting someone’s day with a perfectly brewed coffee because I know how important it is. I’m proud to spread happiness to everyone who visits my café.

Q: What accomplishment are you most proud of in your career?

A: Winning the World Latte Art Championship in 2015. I still feel the glow of winning like it was yesterday. It’s something not many people can say they’ve achieved and I’m very proud of Australia for having two world titles that year (Ona Coffee’s Sasa Sestic won the 2015 World Barista Championship).

Q: What is your advice for baristas looking to enter coffee competitions?

A: Give it your best shot and compete like there’s no tomorrow.

Q: What inspires you to continue to grow your skills as a barista?

A: The more experience I gain the more eager I am to learn. Understanding extraction, milk steaming, and pouring skills have made me a better barista, however, there was a huge gap in my learning from seed to grinder. That’s why I decided to become a coffee roaster, to understand the supply chain – it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Q: What is your main business focus and goal?

A: This business wouldn’t be successful without my customers, so I will focus on customer service and providing consistent quality products.

Q: What’s your go-to coffee order?

A: An oat magic. I’m currently trying alternative milk and so far I love it.

This article appears in the April 2024 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.

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