Michael Beckford of The Alleyway Café has won Veneziano Coffee Roasters’ Barista Brawl, which took place on 18 August at its Richmond roastery.
“It feels great,” says Michael. “I didn’t think I would get to this point.”
Michael was awarded the grand prize of $5000 as well as some additional gifts.
“I just relied on what I was doing the last ten years, so I didn’t really practise much,” he says.
Angus Mackie of Ona Coffee placed second and claimed $1000. Pirada Tungbenjaphol of Jibbi Little’s Coffee Roasters placed third, taking home $500. Lucky Salvador of Coffee Man finished fourth and won $250.
The competition saw 30 baristas spend five minutes at each of the five stations to test their barista skills.
The first station, ‘Pour It’, saw the baristas try and make two identical patterns in a 200-mililitre glass. The latte art patterns and type of milk were determined by a roll of the dice. The second station, ‘Taste It’, had competitors identify the origin, processing method, varietal, three tasting notes, and intensity and type of acidity in a sample of brewed coffee.
“The latte art was the most challenging,” says Michael. “I shake when I’m under pressure.”
The third station, ‘Smell It’, had baristas identify coffee aromas from eight vials, while the fourth round, ‘Assess It’, involved guessing the intensity of sweet, salt and sour mixed in five different solutions.
The fifth and final station was kept as a secret until the night of the competition. Baristas were tasked with pouring coffees and producing latte art while blindfolded, with points received for not only making a shape with the art but for the amount of milk poured into the cup.
“The funniest [station] was the mystery challenge, which is where I think I got into the top four,” Micahel says.
After each barista attended the five stations, the four finalists, Lucky, Angus, Pirada, and Michael, were annoucned.
“I thought I did alright,” says Michael. “I thought I’d finish in the top half, but everyone else looked very confident, so I wasn’t sure.”
The final round saw the four competitors produce the best brew by hand, using manual grinders and equipment over 10 minutes.
“For the final round, I went with what I thought was a simple way to brew with not too many variables,” Michael says.
For more information, visit www.venezianocoffee.com.au