April 23, 2015

Hands in the air for a World Champion

When the final announcement at this year’s World Barista Championships in Seattle came down to the final two competitors USA and Australia many things were running through my mind. Are we going to be second like so many WBC’s in the past? Is the American favourite Charles Babinski going to take it out as I could hear the Americans roaring in the stands.



The Winner is Sasa Sestic – Australia, WOW!

This was a great moment in many Australian coffee professional’s careers and a major achievement for Sasa and his strong and very loyal ONA Coffee team.

Being a part of this event in Seattle brought three days of highs and lows watching Sasa compete amongst the best of the best barista competitors from around the world. In the back of my mind after seeing so many other competitors complete their routines Sasa was the only one really telling the whole story with his polished performance of why he wanted to be the best in the world in the coffee business. It does always come down to what coffees in the cup but having been around Sasa and his team for the last seven years I knew he had a secret weapon in his bean preparation and beverage deliveries. Sasa is not just a barista he is a true coffee businessman. He owns his own coffee company and has put a lot on the line to become a world champion.

Café Culture International had an order of Sasa supporter t-shirts rushed through before we set off to the States with Greg and Ange from Constable Printing up till all hours getting the shirts finished. It was more than worth it to see Team Sasa supporters wearing his name proudly on the final round as we packed ourselves into the Cafetto private ringside box. It was the only box there with catered beer and wine. “Very typically Australian” I heard one American say as he walked past.

It was a real credit to Sasa’s passion that got him to this position and it was a long road that I do remember well having visited him in the early days in Canberra at his ONA Café and Roastery. I really do admire the work ethics of this guy and he still must be the best boss in the world as he has kept the same group of loyal staff with him for a long time and they all admire his persistence for excellence. I know he rewards his team well giving them opportunities with origin trips and then supporting them in their chosen fields of expertise.

Sasa was joined in Seattle by his wife Betty, brother Dragan and nephew Nikola. They all had the added stress of Sasa falling extremely ill after the first heat and keeping him going physically and mentally. He had a major fever which he kept to himself and it was tearful seeing him battle through each day. This only made for a more deserving win at the end.

Sasa and his brother Dragan came to Australia before the 2000 Olympics where they secured citizenship and represented Australia in the men’s handball team. They were both living in Eastern Europe in war torn Bosnia so Australia was a great opportunity to settle their families, I know this story well due to a visit to Sasa’s home in Canberra many years ago where we watched old footage of handball games with these two champions competing against the best in the world. They were real tough guys and they have both applied this philosophy to their successful coffee businesses.

Again it was a highlight of my coffee career to be there and witness the passion of these competitions and a real credit to Team ONA and the other people on Sasa’s road to success in becoming a World Barista Champion. This title could not have gone to a nicer guy.

Thanks Sasa for breaking the mold and putting Australia on top of the world ladder in coffee.



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