Milklab’s Barista Battle returned in an international format for the second year. BeanScene explores the detail required to win a state championship and go all the way to the top.
Crowds flocked to Milklab’s exhibitor stand in droves at the 2022 Melbourne International Coffee Expo (MICE) to watch competitors meticulously pour latte art designs in the 2022 Milklab Barista Battle. It was a treat for the eyes, and on the back of Australia winning the international barista battle last year – the world is officially on notice as Australia eyes off the title once again.
Milklab Brand Manager Lydia San says this year’s latte art smackdown final will follow a similar format to the final that took place at MICE2022.
“Milklab has run small Baristas Battle events in the past, but last year was the inaugural international Barista Battle. It was a real success, and we’re excited to bring it back to MICE2023,” Lydia says.
Regional heats for the Milklab Barista Battle series ran in seven states across Australia throughout June and July.
“Each heat saw 24 baristas compete in a head-to-head, bracket-style tournament. Each round was a knock-out battle with the best pour, as decided by a panel of judges, moving on to the next round,” Lydia says.
To be crowned state champion, competitors needed to overcome four rounds.
“In the first, two dice determined what latte art pattern the competitors poured, with what milk. From there, 12 contenders competed in round two. They had to use Milklab Almond milk but could pour a creature or animal of their choosing. From there, six baristas moved on to round three. This was a free pour latte art round, but competitors had to use Milklab Oat milk,” says Lydia.
“In the final round, three baristas completed a free pour with Milklab Oat milk. However, judges scored each drink out of 50. Contestants were assessed on contrast, harmony, visual foam quality, overall appeal, and difficulty of patterns. The barista with the highest points won.”
The first heat took place at East Row Specialty Coffee in Canberra, Australian Capital Territory on 29 June. Vinh Dang of Fox and Bow came in first place, Molly Hay from The Cupping Room placed second and Kevin Yearling of Espresso Rooms placed third.
“We had a full house with lots of cheering on the sidelines. It was great to kick off the regional heats with such a good energy and lots of excitement,” Lydia says.
“We love seeing the interaction among the community, not just between us and the baristas, but the competing baristas themselves. It’s really rewarding to be able to cultivate a friendly competition and give baristas a space to mingle and learn from each other.”
Darcy Jones of Axil Coffee Roasters won the Victoria heat of the Milklab Barista Battle series on 5 July at Roasting Warehouse in Airport West. Ming Wan of Ona Coffee was runner up and Kael Zhao placed third in the final round.
The following heats occurred at The Grounds of Alexandria in Sydney, New South Wales on 13 July, The Coffee Commune in Brisbane, Queensland on 19 July, Dimattina Coffee in Perth, Western Australia on 27 July, and Altura Coffee in Adelaide, South Australia on 29 July.
“We were met with an overwhelming amount of positive feedback from guests at the events. We’re definitely looking forward to doing it bigger and better each time,” Lydia says.
“We love providing a platform to up-and-coming baristas to practice their latte art and shine a light on new talent.”
Each first placeholder wins a pass to MICE to represent their state in the national final, return flights to Melbourne, and two nights of accommodation.
“The winner will also receive a week’s supply of Milklab Oat for their café or place of work. As MICE will take place in Melbourne, the Victorian heat winner will receive a pass to MICE and a $500 MasterCard gift card in place of flights and accommodation,” says Lydia.
Second place from each heat will win a $200 MasterCard gift card and third place will receive a $100 MasterCard gift card. All competitors will get a Milklab merch pack.
In the Australian final, six baristas will compete in three rounds.
“In the first round, they will create an animal or creature with Milklab Oat milk. From there, three baristas will progress to round two, creating free pour latte art with Milklab Almond milk. The final round will see two baristas go head-to-head and create free pour latte art with Milklab Oat milk,” Lydia says.
The winner of the Australian final will be invited to become a Milklab Master Barista and go on to the international final, where they’ll compete against Milklab Master Baristas from across the globe for the chance to win a trip for two to Toronto Coffee Festival 2024.
Representing countries in the international finals will include Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, and China.
“Last year we had five international baristas fly in for the final, but Australia took out the winning spot. It was really nice to have an Aussie competitor become the Barista Battle Champion,” says Lydia.
Patryk Tomasik, the reigning champion of the Milklab Barista Battle 2022, says it was an “incredible experience” to take part in the competition. He had no specific strategy for the competition but honed his skills repeatedly to prepare.
“I’m always trying to focus on making my latte art as clean as possible and making all the rosettas and stacks as sharp as they can. As those basic patterns are the base of every advanced latte art pattern, I felt the need to be practicing those the most,” he says.
“Being able to use Milklab’s practice space at MICE before the competition helped a lot. I tried to focus on breathing exercises to calm my nerves, but I was still shaking even then.”
Now recognised as a Milklab Master Barista, Patryk says the title has given him more exposure and launched exciting career opportunities.
“More people now know the face behind the latte art I’m trying to present to a wider audience. It has also created some new opportunities that will be released in the coming months, but I can’t divulge any information just yet. Stay tuned,” he says.
Patryk advises competing baristas to practice as much as they can before the big day.
“If you love what you’re doing, it will love you back. Pour your heart into each cup of coffee every day and it will pay off,” he says.
Patryk looks forward to watching rising barista talent and immersing himself in the coffee expo.
“Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Just go in, have fun, meet all the amazing baristas you’re going to compete against, and who knows, it may be you [who wins] this year,” he says.
“Never give up. This year, I have already competed three times at three different latte art smackdowns and got knocked out pretty early on, all three times. But will I give up? Hell no. Just have fun with it.”
For more information, visit www.milklabco.com
This article appears in the August 2023 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.