Jae Kim of St Ali has won the 2022 Australian Specialty Coffee Association Southern Region Latte Art Championship.
Ming Wang placed second and Darcy Lillis Jones of Axil Coffee Roasters placed third in the competition, which took place on 30 June at the Kensington Town Hall.
Jae is a reluctant latte art winner. Jae had planned on judging the latte art competition but upon hearing there weren’t enough competitors in the category and it was at risk of not running, he switched places.
“I decided to become a competitor to support the other latte artists and ensure they could have a chance to compete,” Jae says.
“I was so lucky [to win]. I really didn’t expect it because I haven’t done a lot of barista work. When COVID first hit I went from being a barista to working in the warehouse, managing the dispatch team. I haven’t done latte art for two years so it took a week to get my rhythm back again. Luckily my boss Lachlan [Ward] and Lucy [Ward] said ‘don’t worry, just enjoy it’, and I did. I really enjoyed myself on stage.”
Given the quick turnaround, Jae had only practiced for the past two and a half weeks before the competition.
Jae used his Fighting Fish pattern, which he has presented at his last nationals competition, due to his lack of preparation time. This second pattern was a Schnauzer dog, because his 15-month-old daughter is a big fan of dogs. His third pattern was a Safari Zoo, reflecting the first time Jai took his daughter to the zoo. “She just loved looking at all the animals,” he says.
“All the patterns were motivated by my daughter and her love for animals. Each design is attached to a memory.”
The event was proudly supported by Riverina Fresh who supplied the competition with its Gold milk, Victoria Arduino with its Mythos Grinder, and the Sanremo Coffee machine.
The competition Jae had always planned on competing in however, was Cup Tasters, where he placed second.
From January, he had been training each day, doing eight practice sets a day, and two weeks before the competition, practiced doing triangulation sets twice a day. He says thanks to his daily work roasting coffee for St Ali, it’s been good practice to test his ability to decipher texture and acidity in different coffees.
Unfortunately for the past two weeks before the competition however, Jae suffered from blocked sinuses, meaning he couldn’t taste as well as he would have liked too.
“Despite having a blocked nose, I’m really happy with the result. I was able to find the difference in texture and acidity which I think was the hardest part,” Jae says.
He completed his cupping set in six minutes and eight seconds, correctly guessing 8/8 triangulations.
Jae says he was sure of six coffees, and that the first two cups were the hardest to decipher. “They tasted very similar but the acidity and texture was a bit different,” he says. “It was harder than I expected.”
The day after the competition, Jai says he planned on going straight back into roasting and training in preparation for his nationals campaign, taking place in Melbourne from 17 to 20 August.
“I’m going to keep trying and do my best, and never ever give up,” Jae says.