Meet the new World Champions

Australia’s reign as the World Latte Art Champion is over – for now.

Um Paul of South Korea is the new World Champion, ending Caleb “Tiger” Cha’s busy year as the world’s best latte artist.

Um Paul proved that creativity and execution was again what the judges were looking for, pouring an angel for his free pour latte, a baby swan for his free pour espresso macchiato, and Tinker bell for his designer pattern.

Qi Li from China placed second, Minako Yoshizumi from Japan placed third, Dhang Tamang of the United Kingdom placed fourth, Agnieszka Rojewska of Poland placed fifth, and Ben Morrow of Australia’s Sensory Lab placed sixth in the World Latte Art Championship (WLAC) finals.

Um Paul has been practicing latte art since 2004. He told World Coffee Events (WCE) he was a barista who loved making coffee because of the enjoyment it brings to many people. If that’s the case, Um Paul is going to make hundreds of fans happy over the next 12 months.

Australia’s Ben passed the Art Bar round with his “hungry hummingbird” design, and then the preliminary rounds to reach the finals. He may not have taken top honours on this occasion, but Ben was happy with his overall performance, noting the WCE event was a “seriously excellent competition”.

It was great to see Australian representation on the judging panel too. Lance Brown was one of two certified Head Judges, and Jeremy Regan was an accredited WLAC Visual Judge.

More than 70 baristas from around the world gathered to compete in four world coffee championship events at Hotelex in Shanghai, China from 29 March to 1 April.

In the World Coffee in Good Spirits Championship (CIGS), Michalis Dimitrakopoulos from The Underdog won first place, making Greece and The Underdog back-to-back CIGS champions. Martin Hudak of Slovakia placed second, and Berg Wu of Taiwan placed third. Australia’s Shae Macnamara of Grinders Coffee placed fourth.

“It was one of the best moments in my life,” Michalis tells BeanScene. “I was so excited to win. I feel so proud for my team – the underdog – and for my country.”

Michalis’ Underdog colleague George Koustoumpardis won the 2015 CIGS and helped coach Michalis along with Tasos Delichristos to the international title.

“We were want to prove that winning was about more than just good luck. You need a lot of knowledge, team work, professionalism, and a perfect coffee. Winning back-to-back proves that The Underdog team and also Greek baristas have a lot of passion for our work. We love coffee and we do our best to have the best possible result for our country,” Michalis says.

To win the CIGS, Michalis produced a sweet and sour cocktail for his cold beverage designer drink.

“It has sweet, sour, citrus flavours, clove and pink grapefruit flavours, and vanilla notes with a syrupy mouthfeel. I made it with a spicy rum called Rumbullion, Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge, Oleo-Saccharum, and of course a double shot of espresso ‘Tchembe’ from Ninety Plus,” Michalis says.

Proving it’s possible to win back-to-back events, Juan Gabriel Céspedes of Costa Rica won the World Cup Tasters Championship (WCTC) for the second year in a row. Dongho Lee of South Korea took second place and Mateusz Petlinski of Germany took third place. Unfortunately Australia’s Harry Ko from Dukes Coffee Roasters failed to make the WCTC finals.

Juan scored seven out of eight cups correctly in the final round, which was only his second time ever missing a cup in competition. “[Winning] means a good sense of pride both personally and for my country,” Juan told BeanScene post 2015 win. We can only imagine the feeling’s repetitious.

Rounding off the four championship events was the World Coffee Roasting Championship (WCRC). This year Alexandru Niculae of Barista School in Romania won first place. Dmitrii Borodai of Double B Coffee&Tea in Russia placed second, and Matthew Robley-Siemonsma of Prufrock Coffee in the United Kingdom placed third.

The WCRC is designed to feature the talent and skill of those involved in the artisan craft of specialty coffee roasting.

“It was my dream to win this championship,” Alexandru says. “The key to success is to be open-minded. Roasting is complex, but you should not be afraid of trying new techniques, or sometimes keeping things simple.”

Alexandru discovered his passion for coffee four years ago drinking specialty coffee at a roastery in Miami, Florida.

“They gave me a V60 filter coffee and it was amazing. After my first competition trying Brewers Cup in 2014, which I won, I knew if I wanted to go to another level I had to be the person who affects the flavour profile of green coffee. So I studied a lot. The next year I won [Romania’s] first National Roasting Championship and placed eighth in the WCRC in Sweden,” Alexandru says. “I learnt a lot and even though I did not win the championship, I was very happy about the experience. But I continued to pursue my dream of becoming world champion.”

All competitors had to roast a washed and honey processed single origin coffee from Panama.

“It had 10.5 per cent humidity and I chose to apply a medium to high heat 180°C, as the drop temperature. What I wanted to do is to have a faster turning point, and a rate of rise not higher than 10 to 30 seconds, and not lower than three to 30 seconds at the end of the process. I kept going with the same momentum till the end. I also started with higher airflow,” Alexandru says. “This helped balance it and to push more flavour out, giving me a clean cup, balanced, with all the character present.”

His total roasting time was nine minutes for both the blend and single origin. In the blend, Alexandru opted for 45 per cent Colombian, 45 per cent Guatemalan, and 10 per cent Chinese beans, pre-blended. He says this resulted in a “really balanced” cup. He adds that his roasting approach was similar, but he had to work with more heat on the burner.

“In the end my coffee was the most balanced and the judges decided that was the winner. This is my style of roasting. I am always trying to balance the coffee without hiding its character,” he says.

Now that Alexandru is a World Champion, he plans to open his own roastery and coffee shop, and work with directly with farmers. But he’s still got a competitive streak.

“I hope next year to compete in Brewers Cup,” he says.

Image credits: World Coffee Events

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