Takumi Sakamoto of Deluca Coffee wins 2019 Australian Coffee Roasting Championship

2020 Australian Coffee Roasting Championship

Takumi Sakamoto of Deluca Coffee has won the Australian Specialty Coffee Association (ASCA) 2019 Australian Coffee Roasting Championship, held at Criteria Coffee in Port Melbourne, Victoria from 29 to 31 May.

Pat Connolly of Genovese Coffee placed second and Daniel Shadbolt of Veneziano Coffee Roasters placed third in the competition.

“I’ve been roasting for six or seven years and never entered any competitions. I kind of wanted to prove something, that I can do good. I just can’t believe I won,” Takumi tells BeanScene.

“I had no idea what to expect. To win in roasting is an amazing feeling, especially in Australia, one of the ‘coffee capitals of world’.”

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Takumi began his coffee career seven years ago as a barista for Campos Coffee.

“I was very passionate about making coffee, but wanted to understand a bit more about it and serve better coffee to the customers,” he says.

“The best way to do this was through roasting, and about six years ago, I was given the opportunity to work in a roastery.”

Takumi enjoys the Roasting Championship because it provides each competitor with a level playing field.

Takumi Sakamoto Deluca Coffee
Takumi Sakamoto is the 2019 Australian Coffee Roasting Champion.

“Everyone is given same machine and green bean. You’re not going to win because you have a special coffee, from a special farmer, with a special processing method,” he says. “It’s really fair, as long as you understand the rules and what the judges are looking for.”

Australian Roasting Championship finalists were presented with four coffees, one for a single origin and three to be used in a blend.

Takumi’s single origin was a washed Karatu Peaberry from Kenya and his blend consisted of washed and honey processed coffees from Akawa Project Rugazi in Burundi and a double fermented Obata from Brazil’s California Coffee Estates.

Due to the lower drum speed of the roasters used in the competition, Takumi roasted in a smaller one-kilogram batch so more hot air would fill the drum, maximising its convection power.

“I used the highest air flow setting and a softer heat because of the smaller batch size. Because of this, I could develop the coffee quite efficiently, and achieved a fully developed light roast,” Takumi says.

“I roasted both coffees in the same way, and because the judges scored via cupping, made sure I got the best tasting coffee in a cupping format. If I was to roast for milk, filter, or espresso, I might have taken a different approach.”

Takumi says the most difficult part of competing was the mental preparation.

“I was quite nervous the day beforehand,” he says. “But when I touched the roaster, it calmed me down. I’ve been roasting for a long time and when I started, it made me feel relaxed. It made me happy somehow.”

While judges commended Takumi for sticking close to his roasting plan, he learnt that it is also important to understand what they are looking for.

“I roasted in a way that I would like, but what judges want in a cup is might not be the same thing,” Takumi says. “I need to understand how judges see the coffee and how the scoring works.”

Takumi will represent Australia in the 2019 World Coffee Roasting Championship (WCRC),taking place in Taipei from 15 to 18 November at the 2019 Taiwan International Coffee Show.

To prepare, he will focus as much on the details as the coffee itself.

“I definitely need to learn more about Giesen roasters, which will be used in the WCRC, and understand more about scoring, the rules and regulations. I will ask for all the help I can from our judges, my fellow competitors, and Ben [Toovey of Genovese Coffee] who competed in 2018,” Takumi says.

“The competition is not about who does the best roast. It’s about who has the most control over their roast, from planning to execution.”

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