Milklab launches Roaster Royale competition with $10,000 cash prize


Milklab reveals its plans for the 2024 Melbourne International Coffee Expo, including its new cash-prize roasting competition.

As prizes in the coffee competition world continue to climb, Milklab is upping the ante by hosting not one but three competitions at this year’s Melbourne International Coffee Expo (MICE) – one offering an all-expenses-paid trip to Papua New Guinea, and a $10,000 cash prize.

“We’re building on last year’s success and have created some exciting events to celebrate baristas and coffee roasters in all their glory. We’re ready to shake things up with a whole new Barista Battle online format, our first-ever Roaster Royale competition, and exciting daily Latte Art Workshops led by some of the most talented latte artists in the industry,” says Milklab Brand Manager Melanie Ung.

The 2024 Milklab Barista Battle will enable contestants to showcase their skills and battle-it-out in an online latte art forum hosted on Instagram and TikTok.

The barista with the best pour uploaded to Instagram or TikTok, as decided by Milklab’s expert panel of judges, will represent their state in the finals and continue through to MICE to compete for the national title.

“We had feedback from baristas in previous years who weren’t able to participate due to location challenges, so we shifted the focus online this year to make it more accessible for all baristas no matter where they live. It also means there’s no limit on how many people can enter the competition,” Melanie says.

The state winners will win a trip to MICE to compete in the Milklab Barista Battle final on 12 May. The grand champion will pick up a $5000 cash prize and be invited to become a Milklab Master Barista.

“This year we are mixing it up by injecting some fun into the competition, challenging baristas to share their most entertaining and creative pours where winners will win limited edition Milklab merch packs,” says Melanie.

Barista Battle 2023 Champion Mohammed ‘Rizky’ Ramadani, of café Des Delices and Offshoot Coffee in Western Australia, says winning the competition and becoming a Milklab Brand Ambassador has opened doors for him in the coffee world.

“It’s been such a great experience and has helped me make connections in the coffee community,” he says.

For those looking to compete this year, Rizky says it’s important to stay grounded and be confident in your skills.

“It can be a very competitive battle, so for those who are new, don’t let it get to you. It can be terrifying being watched by other baristas and judges, but remember you’re doing your best,” he says. “It’s important to learn something new and have fun.”

To satisfy the wholesale coffee community looking to score a trip to origin and some serious cash, Milklab is hosting its first roasting competition, Roaster Royale.

“The brief is simple: create a signature roast that pairs well with Milklab Oat, using beans supplied by our green bean partner InterAmerican Coffee,” says Melanie.

To enter, roasters must register and submit one kilogram of the signature roast by 4 April.

“Milklab judges will blind taste each coffee blend and announce the top five on 12 April. The finalists will be showcased at the Roaster Royale Grand Finals at MICE on 13 May, where the winners will be crowned,” Melanie says.

The roasts will be rated out of 10 in four categories: sweetness, flavour, aftertaste, and balance with Milklab Oat.

“The winner will receive a trip to Papua New Guinea, $10,000 cash prize, and be invited to become a Milklab roaster partner. Second place will take home $5000, and third place will win $2500,” Melanie says.

“We want to collaborate with roasters and give them a platform to showcase their brand and put their skills to the test as they are a key part of our vibrant coffee community.”

Milklab is also hosting daily Latte Art Workshops for baristas looking to enhance their latte art skills but who don’t want to compete. Each morning of the Expo, Milklab will host an expert barista who will share key latte art tips and tricks as well as a tutorial on how to replicate their signature latte art pattern.

“Once the workshop is complete, we invite baristas to try and replicate the expert’s signature latte art themselves for the chance to win $500,” Melanie says.

Victor Vu, the 2024 ASCA Australian Latte Art Champion, Junnie Phyu of Junnie Coffee Workshop, and Ming Wan, 2024 ASCA Australian Latte Art Championship runner up, will each host the Latte Art Workshop one day of the Expo.

“We love seeing the interaction among the barista community, and not just between us and the baristas. We wanted to offer something different and fun. It’s really rewarding to be able to cultivate a friendly competition and give baristas a space to learn from and challenge each other.”

The Milklab stand will again be made from saveBOARD, a low-carbon building material made from hard-to-recycle liquid paper board used in long-life cartons.

“saveBOARD focuses on building a circular economy by turning composite packaging waste, such as milk cartons, ingredients bags, coffee cups, and soft plastics, into low-carbon products that re- enter the local supply chain,” says Melanie.

“We’re also bringing back the Milklab Lane layout, inspired by Melbourne urban coffee culture and our collaboration with baristas. It resembles hole-in-the-wall cafés and coffee carts, which encourage guests to explore the ‘laneways of Milklab’.”

Melanie says Milklab was built on collaboration, and that it’s important for the brand to continue to highlight its partnerships with baristas so it can continue to grow with the industry.

“The growth of both Milklab and the plant-based industry has been phenomenal and there is definitely much more room for growth in this booming sector. We’re really proud of the loyal following we’ve developed, and we’re excited to continue to innovate for them,” she says.

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This article appears in the April 2024 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.

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