Matthew Lewin of Ona Coffee is getting ready to represent Australia at the 2019 World Barista Championship (WBC) in the United States from 11 to 14 April.
Matthew won his first Australian Barista Championship title at the 2019 Melbourne International Coffee Expo in his sixth time competing.
He is currently finishing his training with two-time Australian Barista Champion and Ona Coffee co-worker Hugh Kelly before heading to the US at the end of the week.
“This is my first time preparing for a world competition, so it feels like preparing for nationals but just a bit more serious,” Matthew says.
“I’ve been doing a lot of training at the Ona Coffee roastery in Canberra and I’ve also spent some time in some of our cafés, getting back to the roots of customer service and enjoying being behind a bar.”
Working with Hugh, who placed eighth in 2016 and fifth in 2017 at the WBC, has given Matthew the guidance needed to perfect his routine and spot elements that could be improved.
Two sets of eyes are definitely better than one,” Matthew says. “Aside from the training with Hugh, we’ve had lots of friends, colleagues and customers come through to watch run-throughs and give feedback. It has been a really collaborative experience.”
Matthew says his routine will grow on his national presentation, focusing on the ways in which customers experience specialty coffee.
“I think that as coffee professionals, our perception of what is well communicated is maybe not exactly as we’d intended. I’m looking to tell a story about coffee and how we can share it with everyone,” he says.
When Matthew competes in the WBC, he is aware he will not only represent Ona, but the other companies and Australian producers who helped him reach the world stage, including dairy supplier Riverina Fresh.
“Riverina Fresh has been a great support in both delivering a consistent product to our venues and roastery for many years, and also in helping better our understanding of how milk is created and how to best express its natural flavours,” Matthew says.
“Not only have they have been an incredible support throughout years of competition, but they have enabled us to push the boundaries when it comes to serving milk-based coffee every day.”
Matthew visited Riverina’s farm in mid-2018, where he experienced firsthand what goes into producing such a milk specifically crafted to pair with specialty coffee.
“When we visited it was the height of the drought that was affecting farmers across much of Australia. We heard about the difficulties faced by these farmers and how drastic changes needed to be made to ensure that they were able to work and live sustainably. We also saw the support Riverina Fresh provides to its farmers and the value they got from meeting customers who value their work and collaboration,” Matthew says.
“For me, presenting this milk on the world stage isn’t just about making a great coffee, it’s about giving credit to everyone that has gone into making it, from the coffee farmers that have laboured over the production of the coffee, to the Riverina farmers and team who work tirelessly to make one of the best milks in the world.”
A week out from the competition, Matthew feels calm heading towards the world stage.
“I’m not stranger to competition, having competed in the Australian Barista Championship six different times. Over the past five attempts, I’ve placed second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth – but until this year, never first,” Matthew says.
“I think that having competed so many times and taking so long to achieve first place has made me understand that no matter what position you place in, it is the journey to get there that matters.
“I’ve grown a lot as a coffee professional, a competitor and a person over the past few years and for the first time, I am ready for what the world stage will bring.”