MONIN’s innovation lead John Davidson explains why the competition is an exciting opportunity for any baristas with a taste for creativity.
In a world where trends and tastes change as quickly as a shot of espresso, one competition stands to take advantage of all the latest fads — the MONIN Coffee Creativity Cup. It’s an annual event that brings together the best and brightest coffee connoisseurs from around the world, all vying for the coveted title of ‘MONIN Cup’ Champion.
MONIN Advocacy and Innovation Manager, John Davidson, says the challenge is not just about creating a delicious cup of coffee, but delivering a complete sensory experience. He says it’s about pushing the boundaries of innovation, moving beyond a simple vanilla latte and into uncharted territory to create unique tastes and flavours.
“We want to give our community in the coffee space something to really look forward to, and something to set their imaginations alight and create some innovative signature serves,” says John.
The MONIN Cup requires cafés from all over Australia to create a unique espresso- based serve, incorporating at least 10 millilitres of any MONIN product. Cafés are then required to submit the recipe details to the MONIN Cup website for their chance to be flown to Melbourne to perform live, one night during the Melbourne International Coffee Expo (MICE). The exact venue is yet to be confirmed, however, the dates will be 17 and 19 August.
“We will release a list of the top 25, and we ask that the drinks created stay on the café menu for some weeks,” John says. “We’ll then pay a visit to those cafés and taste all contestant’s beverages. After careful consideration we will release the final eight to 10 competitors. Those finalists will receive an all-expenses paid trip to Melbourne to attend MICE and compete in the national heat. The winner will then be invited to represent Australia at the world final in Kuala Lumpur with a chance to be crowned Global MONIN Cup Champion.”
John makes it clear that the MONIN Cup is not something you want to miss as a competitor, with all competitors to be lavishly rewarded for their efforts.
“There is a constantly growing array of prizes including a $5000 cash prize for the Australian winner, to be awarded at MICE, and the top three winners at Kuala Lumpur will get to enjoy an exotic Asian destination as part of their prize,” John says.
The competition is aimed at young baristas between 18 and 27 years old.
John says MONIN intends to create a platform for people to explore the potential of flavour and aroma by combining many herbs, spices, and plant flavours into one unique espresso serve.
“We want competitors to use their creativity, skill, passion, and inventiveness to develop a memorable cocktail moment that is delivered with sense and emotion,” he says. “By using all five senses, we challenge you to create a coffee experience that can engage aroma, touch, flavour, site and even sound.”
The idea of the MONIN Cup was born when searching for a way to keep up with premium beverage trends. It has since evolved into something more than just a beverage competition. It is an opportunity to use coffee innovation to build a strong community and develop trend setters in the space.
“We want to move away from anyone’s idea of putting vanilla into a latte and calling it a day, and create something truly unique and special and really engage with the crowd,” John says.
Ultimately, John hopes competitors take advantage of the challenge and MONIN’s range of products to create something remarkable.
“We’re expecting big things in terms of texture and we’re really looking forward to seeing how people engage with the five senses and put on a performance for the crowd,” John says.
John believes this year will feature contestants following current industry trends such as sustainability and simplicity.
“I think over the past five years, trends have shifted from knowing exactly how your beans have been washed, roasted, and stored, and is now about people wanting to know more about the farmers and having this sustainable green ethos around everything we do,” John says. “That’s the same for cocktails, coffee, food, restaurants, even McDonald’s have paper straws.
“It’s definitely something that, once the competition is underway and we see the finalist’s recipes, there will be some great storytelling through the five senses about sustainability or about people’s relationship to the coffee and where they get it from.”
John is also pushing for more creativity in botanicals to craft signature drinks that have never been seen before.
“I expect to see some dynamic flavour pairings that are still very elegant. We don’t like to dissuade competitors from being as creative as possible, so we want to completely engage with them and hear their full stories, however they choose to display them,” he says.
In order to ensure that the competition remains fair and impartial throughout the judging process, MONIN vows to include contestants and judges from many different backgrounds in the competition.
“Judges will include industry professionals such as a representative from the Australian Specialty Coffee Association and MONIN. This way we can get a really good consensus on who deserves an international trip or two this year,” John says.
“The team of judges will analyse all aspects of the competitor performance, including presentation, efficiency and skills of the competitor, appearance, aroma, taste and theme of the drink.”
John says the MONIN Cup is a key element in providing a budding network for young up and coming bartenders and believes in the importance of building a community and expanding networks within the coffee industry.
“At MONIN, we are proud to give back to the creative and talented people within the coffee industry, by sponsoring competitions and elevating profiles of the talented past winners,” John says.
John says MONIN’s previous winners have gone on to become great thought leaders in their respective field.
“We have also worked with some really talented people such as Danny Wilson, who is now Head Roaster at ONA Coffee, and won the Australian Coffee in Good Spirits Championship, sponsored by MONIN, in 2018 and 2019,” says John.
John looks back fondly on the previous six editions of the MONIN Cup and is eager to see who the next champion will be.
“The first major MONIN Cup winner that I remember was James Irvine, who was a bartender in Sydney,” John says. “He’s now the Creative Director of Drinks for Four Pillars. He created his serve based on his love of the movie The Jungle Book, adapting his bartending knowledge, and setting trends that are still considered relevant in the industry today.”
John encourages young bartenders to take part in the competition and plans to continue priming the next generation of enthusiastic coffee makers.
“The right people have come out of these contests, and they have since become advocates and educators of modern coffee,” John says.
This article appears in the April 2023 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.