The World Barista Competition in Seattle had a significant highlight this year with Australian competitor Sasa Sestic winning the title of 2015 World Barista Champion.
Across the four day competition, Sasa kept it together over three incredible routines in the heats, semis and final. He repeatedly wowed the judges with his amazing coffee, barista skills and innovative concept. All the while, he had the many Aussie supporters, myself now included, cheering him on from the stands — plus his team of coaches nervously pacing in the background. Sharing the stage on the final day with baristas from France, UK, USA, Canada and Hong Kong, he laid down his best performance before being deservedly announced as the best of the best for 2015!
Having had the chance to Head Judge some of the semi finalists and finalists during the heats, I could certainly appreciate that he was up against some great competitors and great coffees. Home favourite Charles Babinski had a fantastic performance, linking the world of great coffee consumer experiences with the strictures of the 15 minute competition. Hong Kong?s Chan Kwan Ho took the innovative approach of sous vide water bathing his coffee beans to raise the internal temperature and cell structure of the coffee before grinding in order improve extraction yield. If his absolutely delicious cappuccinos are anything to go by, it may not be long before we see another must have accessory on the brew bar. Or maybe we’ll see the introduction of the vacuum chamber into espresso production such as demonstrated by Canadian champion Ben Put who, with exactly that, manipulated the weight and texture of his espresso prior to consumption and scoring!
Up against this, what innovation did Sasa bring to the party? He started a fair bit earlier with his producer Carmello,applying an innovative new processing method to the coffee he would use called Washed Carbonic Maceration. This process sees the ripe cherry washed in a controlled and, most importantly, pressurised environment inside a steel tank. His performance then focused in on exactly what this, other farming practices, his roasting, and the extraction had bought to the exact flavours in his cup. He expanded further on the concept with his signature drink, referencing the similarity to wine making processes. It was very a complete, professional routine backed up with absolutely smashing coffee.
It is certainly testament to what a great guy he is, plus a recognition of the ridiculous amount of effort he had been putting in for the event, that he is such a popular winner. Whilst congratulations go out to all 50+ competitors, all of us Aussies and Kiwis were especially stoked to see another long overdue antipodean winner.