Road to the Coffee Championships Part 3 - Meet The Finalist

Road to the Coffee Championships Part 3 - Meet The Finalist

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The Queensland heat of the ASCA competition took place over the weekend of 23-24 September. Rai competed in the barista category, and finished in a hard-fought-for 3rd place.

This means Rai is still in the running to qualify for the national finals held at MICE in March 2018. We spoke with Rai after the competition.

Rai, why do you think it is important for baristas to participate in competitions?

Competitions like this one are more than just about making a cup of coffee. It's an opportunity for a barista to engage in deep learning and personal growth... a bit like doing a master’s degree in your chosen topic. Competition day is really just your final thesis presentation once all the hard work is done before hand.

What is your routine 5 minutes before the start of the competition? How do you focus?

I have borrowed techniques I learned as a tennis player before big tournaments. There is no room for nerves, so blocking out all other thoughts and bringing calm is most important. Like all things, it takes practice but here are a few techniques I use:

  • 1- Mental redirection, it's impossible to be nervous and do complex mathematics at the same time, so engaging my mind with mathematics helps me calm down.
  • 2- Breathing and grounding, just focussing on my breath and physical touch, like having a tennis ball in my hand that has a complex texture helps ground me in this moment.

What elements of the competition can we expect to see in a Di Bella Coffee café setting?

The format of this competition isn’t truly representative of everyday life at Di Bella Coffee.

I would liken it to the way a car manufacturer makes concept cars that are a technical exercise that filters down into their everyday cars.

It is the same with this barista competition, we have learned some valuable things that we can apply to our everyday activities like new roasting techniques or pushing the boundaries of espresso extraction and share this knowledge with our team and customers.

You have crafted the competition coffees yourself, can you tell us about why you selected these coffees and what the judges experienced?

I chose two coffees for this competition. One for Milk and the Signature drink and one for the Espresso course. For the Milk and Signature drink I used a coffee from a farm called Las Nubes in Colombia. It is very sweet and fruity and has the character of strawberry!

For the Espresso I chose to use a Rwandan coffee from the Shyira Washing Station. This is a classic profile washed coffee that tasted like sweet lemonade.

Will we see you at the national finals?

Fingers crossed, have to wait for all the states to complete their competitions, from which the top 12 point scorers will go through. If I have enough points relative to everyone else I will be there!