Junnie Phyu wins 2024 Australia’s Richest Barista

Junnie Phyu wins 2024 Australia’s Richest Barista

Junnie Phyu of Junnie Coffee Workshop has won the 2024 Australia’s Richest Barista competition and $25,000 in prize money.

“It’s an honour to win this year’s Australia’s Richest Barista competition. It’s an amazing event that has allowed me to showcase my skills in different areas within the coffee industry,” says Junnie.

The competition, which took place at the Melbourne International Coffee Expo from 12 to 14 May, captivated attendees as some of the country’s top baristas gathered in a knockout-style tournament as they fought for their share of $40,000 worth of prize money.

Lucky Salvador of Coffee Man Darwin and soon-to-open Perk and Palate placed second and won $10,000, placing one position higher than his result in the inaugural 2023 event.

“I needed to trust my gut more in the cupping round. I hesitated with my decision, which I did in last year’s competition also, but it’s a good learning experience to deal with the environment and pressure of being on stage,” Lucky says.

Independent barista Jae Kim came in third and took home $5000. Jae says he felt strongest in the barista round, was challenged in the latte art section where he produced a Fighting Fish, and Zoo animal, inspired by his daughter’s love of animals, and left the cup taster’s round down to his experienced palate, which was a higher degree of difficulty than he anticipated.

“I was slower in my time than Junnie but the strategy to be accurate was key,” Jae says.

The first round of the competition had baristas producing six coffees in under 10 minutes: two espressos, two milk-based drinks, and two signature beverages that must incorporate a flavour option from competition sponsor Naked Syrups.

“I used a natural ombligon coffee featuring flavours of red cherry, blood plum, and bergamot, produced from Nestor Lasso of Finca El Diviso in Colombia. This was the same coffee that Australian Barista Champion Jack Simpson used in the 2023 Australian Barista Championship,” says Junnie.

“I had tried a sample and thought it was so delicious. I roasted it myself with the help of Espresso Company Australia, who loaned me the Aillio Bullet Coffee Roaster.”

Australia’s Richest Barista
Image: Prime Creative Media

For her signature drink, Junnie produced an iced filter coffee with elements of lemon, cheesecake, and osmanthus tea. She used Naked Syrups’ Traditional Lemonade beverage flavouring.

The first round also featured a bonus mocktail round, in which each competitor was to create a mocktail using at least one syrup or flavouring from a sponsored brand.

“For the bonus round, I created a drink with taro tea, chocolate powder, and lemonade, using the same flavouring as my signature drink. I call this drink ‘Purple Love’ as the taro gives it a purple colour. I got so many compliments on the drink’s uniqueness, and I really loved the way it turned out,” says Junnie.

For the second latte art round, competitors made two traditional patterns, two free pour patterns, and two designer patterns. The traditional patterns were determined by a spinning wheel, featuring designs such as a tulip, swan, heart, and rosetta, among others.

“I got lucky with the wheel spin. I had said to [Head Judge Jeremy Regan] that I hoped it would land on the swan, and it did,” Junnie says.

“For my free pour, I chose to recreate one of my favourite latte artists’ designs, 2023 World Latte Art Champion LiangFan’s Rooster. For the designer pattern, I drew a Roaring Tiger, which is a mix of my own designs.”

The third and final round, the cup tasting, provides the competition’s climactic finish. Each finalist was presented with five sets of three coffee samples. The task was to taste each sample and pick the odd one out of the set.

Junnie correctly guessed four out of five flights of coffees in a time of 2:19 seconds, with Lucky and Jae also correctly guessing four out of five flights, in a time of 2.55 minutes and 3:47 minutes respectively.

“Like many others, I have been unwell and was not able to practice the cupping round as much as I would have liked. However, after I made it through the first round, I pushed myself to wake up early and train for the competition. This was not easy with a young toddler, but I am grateful for the support system I’m surrounded by,” Junnie says.

“I want to thank my husband who helped me with my speech and routine for the first round. He also took care of our daughter while I practiced, which I’m very grateful for.”

Junnie says she will put some of the prize money towards a holiday with her family.

“We are flying to Taiwan and my home in Myanmar at the end of the year which I’m very excited for. Now our flights are all sorted,” she says.

“The results were rewarding, and it gives me so much more confidence and motivation to push myself further as I strive to become more rounded in all aspects of coffee.”

With the runner-up prize money of $10,000 Lucky will plan an Australian holiday with his family and treat himself to some new coffee toys.

“Aside from the prize money, Australia’s Richest Barista is such a beautiful competition and the best platform for baristas to test where their skill level is at. It’s also a great way to meet new friends and catch up with old ones. This competition is all about making connections and being in a community that supports each other. We really appreciate this competition. It’s a one-of-a-kind event, and the platform baristas absolutely need,” Lucky says.

“It also allowed me to push some boundaries. I’m not naturally strong at latte art, so this competition helped me grow that skill, and the same for cupping.

“I’ll be back next year. Until I get that first place, I’ll keep coming back.”

Many thanks to Australia’s Richest Barista competition sponsors for their support of the inaugural event: Machine sponsor Dalla Corte, Grinder sponsor Victoria Arduino, Dairy sponsor Riverina Fresh, Syrups sponsor Naked Syrups, Water Filtration sponsor Brita, Cup Taster coffee sponsor Minas Hill, and Latte Art coffee sponsor The Bean Cartel.

For more information, visit internationalcoffeeexpo.com

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