Matthew Lewin went into the 2019 World Barista Championship (WBC) with his head held high, routine prepared, and ready to share his ideas with a global audience.
The Ona Coffee Barista Trainer had won his first Australian Barista Championship title in February in his sixth year competing and was ready to make his mark on the world stage.
And he did, finishing the WBC preliminary round in first place, with the highest scoring espresso in the world and second highest signature drink. Unfortunately, Matt’s WBC campaign came to a close in the Semi-Finals, placing 11th in the competition.
“I had three very connected courses tied closely to my concept that proved to be very approachable yet rewarded highly. But on the day, you have to make a couple of decisions and if you don’t execute them perfectly, it can impact your end result,” Matt tells BeanScene.
“I got feedback from the judges and it ended up being a few tiny things that made the difference. There was only about 10 points between 11thplace and making the finals. That’s half a mark in one box.”
Matt says his second-round exit came down to not fully describing the complex flavour of his coffee.
“I tried to keep it simple, but the coffee really opened up on that second day and the judges were detecting a little more complexity than I’d described,” he says.
“With barista competitors, we have a story, know how our drinks will taste, and try to stick to that. But often, things change with coffee and we need to change with that. I probably did not react to the coffee as well as I should have on day two.”
Matt’s WBC routine focused on how to connect the everyday consumer to specialty coffee.
“When Ona opened its Marrickville café, we had coffees on the menu that were $16 and a lot of the feedback from the public was that they couldn’t believe you could charge $16 for a coffee,” he says.
“I thought there was a space here to be explored. There’s such a gap between people that order everyday coffee and the pointy end of what coffee can be. I wanted to bridge the gap and show coffee can be an incredible experience comparable to a $16 glass of wine.”
For more information on Matt’s WBC routine, click HERE.
Despite not making the Finals, Matt is proud of his performance and what he shared on the world stage.
“No other platform pushes me harder to find deeper levels of excellence in coffee, dig deeper within myself, and demands more of my time and focus than competition has,” he says.
“When you have an opportunity to present yourself, your ideas, and your values around coffee to the broader community – to the extent of your peers being judges – it forces you to dig deep into what you’re capable of.”
Matt advises baristas interested in competing to reach out for help from the generous Australian coffee community.
“It takes a team behind you to get it done at such a high level. There’s just so much to organise and so many moving parts – from flights to accommodation,” Matt says. “Having a good team of sponsors behind you that can support your journey and Australia is paramount.”
He adds the more organised you are prior to going, the smoother things will run.
“You almost need to schedule what’s happening every hour. It might sound a little over the top, but you want to remove as much mental strain as possible,” Matt says.
With the WBC to be held at the Melbourne International Coffee Expo in 2020, Matt is ready to compete again, this time with a home field advantage.
“I think every competitor who’s ever represented Australia – or tried to – should come back to try again,” Matt says.
“It would have been nice [this year] if I could have maintained the day one ranking. I’ll have to go again, using this WBC experience to turn those weaknesses into strengths.”