Nervous moment for world champion barista
The coffee-making trial of the Australian contender in the World Barista Championship had just finished at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre at South Wharf last month.
The body language of Anthony Douglas suggested he was glad it was over. There had been more hype than the Olympics.
Not only did he have to perform at the centre of a stadium for 800, but he had to do his own commentating.
Anthony appeared nervous, stepping out into the limelight after delivering his final drinks.
Had his espressos been up to the mark with the new machine they’d brought in? Had the judges accepted the high-tech desiccated milk in his white coffees?
The barista championship is about taste and performance, and it was up to Anthony to express his coffee philosophy.
“My goal today is to build trust,” he said, while working up to his finale beverage. “Every cup of coffee is a promise. I want to create trust and deliver.”
The crowd cheered as he placed the signature drinks in front of the judges. He wouldn’t know if he’d won until an announcement later in the day at 4pm.
“It’s moments like this that are so important for the progression of this industry we’re all a part of,” he said, before taking a bow.
But that wasn’t the end of his ordeal. Next came the post-mortem. This was when the crowd learned that Anthony was part of a team groomed by Axil Coffee Roasters. He even had a coach.
Team members sat up at a bench with a compere and revealed how they’d been working for months on the technical details of the coffee and practising every day.
They’d tried out hundreds of coffees, tested grinders and experimented with a variety of milks including desiccated milk which gave them a “fourth gear or variable” in terms of allowing the flavours to cut through the milk.
“I did make sure to explore all the variables, to take full control at a competition level,” Anthony explained.
That meant beating off 49 contestants from around the world, having already won the Australian championship, and during his 15 minutes on stage at the Melbourne Exhibition and Convention Centre, making a total of 12 drinks for the four judges, an espresso, a white coffee and a signature drink for each.
He must have conquered their palettes (with his plum, sultanas, cranberry and sweet toffee hints) for the announcement came through finally, an hour late, at 5pm.
Australia had won against five other finalists, some with quite flamboyant stage presences.
Anthony Douglas was now World Barista Champion, and the title is a big deal, according to industry observers. “It’s like winning the Formula One of coffee.”
The barista from Dandenong who was raised on instant coffee and fell into the industry by chance was now “set for life”. •
Caption: Anthony Douglas at the heats of the World Barista Championship.