The annual coffee championships held by the Australian Specialty Coffee Association (ASCA) are recognized as the industry’s leading competition. The winner is highly regarded and is chosen to become a representative for the Australian specialty coffee industry for the year.
This year, one of Di Bella Coffee’s resident coffee experts, Raihaan Esat, is entering the Queensland heat of the competition for his third time, and we’d like to share his journey with you.
The local Queensland competition feeds into the national ASCA championships, and it’s about much more than just making the perfect cup of coffee, it’s about knowledge, understanding, and a deep connection to the bean. Some entrants search for a coffee and build a story around it. For Rai, he knew the story he wanted to tell and he had to find the coffee to match. With the support of the team here at Di Bella, Rai sourced two exceptional beans, the ones he knew would express the story that was forming in his mind.
More on that later, for now we’d like to take you back through Rai’s own journey with coffee, which began almost 15 years ago when a coffee geek cousin introduced him to the diverse & interesting world of the coffee bean. He got his first barista job in a campus café while studying at university, where at the conclusion of a lecture, he would hurry to the café to service the rush of his fellow students in need of a caffeine hit.
After graduating from uni, he spent a lot of time as a professional tennis coach, before finding himself back in the world of coffee after landing a job at the Saturday markets for Di Bella in 2012. He enjoyed the camaraderie of the markets, but the job led him to more work in the drive thru at Di Bella’s Bowen Hills outlet. From there he moved on to the café at the Roasting Warehouse, where he became a senior barista. He has also spent his time with Di Bella in the roasting department, and was part of the team that won the Golden Bean award for Di Bella in 2016.
Coming from a family of teachers, and learning much of the art of teaching from his time as a tennis coach, he still had the desire to share knowledge with people, and this led to his existing role as a trainer, conducting tours and training sessions at our roasting warehouse.
Rai’s history as a competitive barista began in 2013 when he entered and won a local Brisbane coffee competition that gave him an automatic slot in the Queensland ASCA competition. This initial foray into being a competition level barista not only gave him a massive sense of achievement, but also a dose of the competition bug! He entered the event again in 2015, this time gaining 3rd place, and is currently practicing hard and ready to go for gold this time around.
Next up, we talk about how and why Rai has chosen the beans for the competition.