Jade Jennings of Veneziano wins ASCA Southern Region Barista Championship back-to-back

Veneziano Coffee Roasters’ Jade Jennings has taken home the gold tamper trophy in the Australian Specialty Coffee Association (ASCA) 2017 Southern Region Coffee Championship Barista competition for the second year in a row.

In what was a repeat of last year’s top three Southern Region barista finalists, Axil Coffee Roasters took out second and third place with Matt Lewin runner up, and Anthony Douglas in third place at at Maillard Atelier on 17 September.

“I feel honoured that I had the opportunity to present two amazing coffees from Rwanda in my routine. Rwandan coffees are often overlooked, but the naturals I used really show how far Rwandan coffee has come in the past 20 years,” Jade said. “After I competed at nationals last year I was given the amazing opportunity to travel to Rwanda, where I thought of it as simply being the final piece of the puzzle to my competition journey, but after spending a week there I knew it wasn’t over.”

For her routine, Jade shared with the judges a natural processed Rwandan Kilimbi. This coffee is so rare its producers sought permission from the coffee board to produce this first ever legal naturally processed coffee from Maruho. Initially they were shut down, but they persisted and granted approval.

Jade was the 2017 ASCA Australian Barista Champion runner-up, and hopes to go one better at next year’s national finals, taking place at the Melbourne International Coffee Expo (MICE) in March.

“Winning regionals two years in a row is quite a humbling experience, and it’s just a confirmation that the Rwandan story needs to be told,” said Jade, Veneziano Training & Development Manager.

After a big start to the competition weekend, day two promised to be jam-packed with brews, pours, spills and slurps – and it delivered.

For the first time, 2016 ASCA Australian Brewers Cup Champion Devin Loong of Slater Street Bench took out his first regional competition win. Over the years, the 2014 Australian Brewers Cup Champion and 26th-placed 2016 World Brewers Cup (WBrC) Champion has fought his way back to the top in the open division at the national competition. This year, he was relieved to get the win first go with a score of 82.60.

In a close second place was Wenzheng Guo of Tukk & Co Cafe with a score of 80.99, and Harry Hyunsuk of Dukes Coffee Roasters on 80.10 points.

“Not winning regionals has always pushed me to train harder, but now I’ve won it I’ll have to find a new tactic,” Devin said. “To win regionals is a really good feeling. It’s validation that I’m on the right path.”

Devin says he nearly didn’t compete again having just returned from the WBrC in June. As it turns out, it worked in his favour. Devin still had 1.5 kilograms of his WBrC Panama Esmeralda Noria Geisha, which he could use for his regionals routine. Because Devin knew his coffee “inside out”, he says he was confident in using it again for his routine with the same water ratios, but he changed everything else from his world’s routine, including brew method, grind, and presentation.

“Today’s performance was better than my world’s routine,” he said. “The coffee tasted better and my performance was better. Maybe it had something to do with having a home-town advantage.”
Devin says this win just make’s him hungry to get back to the Worlds for a third time. “Oh I’m going back no matter what,” he said.

With the reigning Australian Latte Art Champion Ben Morrow no longer in contention having moved overseas, the floor was open for fresh talent to show their skills.

Despite an anxious wait to hear ‘which Shin’ was crowned the winner, it was Aaron Dongsu Shin of Short Black Cafe in first place, Shinsaku Fukayama of Sensory Lab in second place, and Hao “Howie”Zhe Yoh of Code Black Coffee in third place.

For his routine, Aaron produced a rockhopper penguin for his free pour, a coffee-loving squirrel etched, and a single rose for his macchiatos.

“I’m proud of myself. I’ve competed in many smackdown events, but this was my first time competing in official regional championships. I’m very lucky,” Aaron said. “I decided to enter the competition about two months ago. The patterns I chose started out very basic, but slowly they evolved with more detail over time. I even changed the way I poured the penguin design just three days ago, but I was confident today.”

Aaron says his girlfriend and close friends were a pillar of strength and advice in the lead up to the event, despite one friend back in Korea saying his patterns “could have been better”. But that’s ok, Aaron says such feedback is what he needs to drive him to win the national title.

To complete the weekend’s events, two (and a half) rounds of cuppers took to the stage in a test of speed and accuracy. In a time of 2.27 minutes, Tom Bomford of Square One Coffee Roasters scored 8/8 coffees correctly to win the ASCA Southern Region Cup Tasters title back-to-back. Chattrin Tummachairs from Five Senses Coffee and The Crux and Co won second place, and Ryan Yoon from Cafenatics won third place.

“Production cuppings at Square One is part of my daily routine, and it definitely helped my performance,” Tom said, Square One Production Roaster. “Last year leading into the regional event I was really sick and nervous and my strategy was to cup as quickly as possible. At the nationals I kept speed as my strength, thinking it was the right strategy, and I completed the cupping in 1.30 minutes, but it didn’t get me the title. This year I wanted to take my time with each cup, and it definitely got easier as I went along. I just happened to do it at a quicker pace than the rest of the field.”

In the week leading up to the event, Tom says he went on a “white diet” in order to keep his palate neutral. No acidic, sweet or spicy foods. “I basically had a diet of bland chicken, white bread and cauliflower, and starved my palate,” he says.

His reward for winning the Southern Regionals Brewers Cup – a spicy hamburger that night.

All Southern Region Coffee Championship winners will compete at the National Finals at MICE2017 from 30 – April 1, 2017.

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