10/12/2009 - 00:00

No more cafe bar, baristas hold court

10/12/2009 - 00:00

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Like fine wine, it takes a lot of effort to produce a good coffee. Adam Orlando reports.

No more cafe bar, baristas hold court

MOST of us probably don’t appreciate the effort it takes to make the perfect cup of coffee.

Of course, it’s all a subjective experience, and to be frank, most of us probably wouldn’t know the perfect cup of coffee if we were lucky enough to drink it.

‘Perfect’ for one person may not be so ‘perfect’ for the next.

Guiding the hoi polloi through the nuances of the perfect blend are the state’s leading baristas, who say there are five major factors that affect the quality of coffee – the beans, roast, grind, packaging, and water.

And it’s the deft hand of a barista that ultimately brings all those elements together.

Mark Chandler from Rockingham-based roaster Five Senses Coffee is one such barista. He recently won his second successive WA Barista Champion title, hosted by the peak body for coffee in Australia, the Australasian Specialty Coffee Association.

Mr Chandler, who is also a trainer at the WA Barista Academy, will represent the state at the national final on the Gold Coast in January.

The winner there is set to represent Australia at the World Barista Championships in London in June 2010.

Mr Chandler impressed the judges with his polished performance and flawless coffees, while Jeremy Hulsdunk from the WA Barista Academy was runner up, and Kaya McCarthy from Fix Espresso placed third.

Mr Chandler’s signature drink was a strawberry and tomato nage with watermelon and jackfruit served with saffron and thyme infused cream, served together in three small individual 60-millilitre shot glasses.

Espresso was in the first glass, followed by saffron and thyme-infused cream in the next glass, finishing with the strawberry and tomato nage.

The idea was to drink them in succession, building or developing the drink right on the taster’s palate.

“Most people will define good coffee as anything that’s not bitter and has a pretty pattern on top,” Mr Chandler told Gusto.

“The truth is, good coffee is all about quality and quality coffee really starts at origin, as two halves of a seed in a cherry on the coffee tree.

“Every step in the process, from hand-picking the perfect luscious ripe cherry, the process used to remove the seed from the cherry, the green bean moisture content and even the storage conditions of the coffee in the cafe will have a massive impact on the quality of the coffee.

“Just like how the growing conditions of grapes change the flavour of wine, the area that the coffee cherry grows will drastically affect the flavour of the resulting coffee.

“Although the difference with coffee is that coffee can travel through 40 different pairs of hands before it even gets to the barista.

“So the key to fantastic coffee is all about quality, freshness and controlling the variables, ensuring absolute best practice at every step in the process of the coffee delivery system.”

And just like the state’s wine industry, WA coffee is all about quality, Mr Chandler says.

Established in 2000 as a roaster of premium Arabica beans sourced from small growers in the New Guinea highlands, Five Senses has outgrown its skin several times over.

Mr Chandler says that, through his experiences at Five Senses, he has grown to develop a love of the technical side of making coffee, adding that good equipment and strong barista skills are a good start, but the most important factor to making coffee is the freshness of the bean.

“Stale coffee will still taste stale even in the hands of the world number one barista using the very best equipment available,” he says.

Mr Chandler, who has been in the hospitality industry for 10 years, says at Five Senses he has been given the resources, skills and knowledge to become not only a good coffee maker, but also a teacher.

“We have a strong coffee market here in Perth and I believe it gets stronger every year,” he says. “Just like wine appreciation, more and more we are seeing Perth’s coffee consumers showing a greater appreciation and understanding for coffee.

“There’s a stronger demand for coffee quality and freshness, from both consumers and especially cafe owners.

“The reason is education and experience, which I believe is heavily influenced by barista competitions. We are constantly learning, experimenting and pushing the boundaries every day.

“Specialty coffee is constantly raising the bar and setting new standards, so it doesn’t take long before the average Perth coffee consumer begins to expect nothing less than these high standards every time they purchase and experience a coffee.”

 

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