World Barista Champion Finalist to Judge at the Compak Golden Bean Coffee Roaster Competition
The World Barista Championships are over for another year which saw Australian candidate Craig Simon of Think Tank Coffee perform his best ever, with the best coffee he’s ever tasted and reveal a new coffee processing innovation to the coffee world, to finish in a very exciting fourth place out of 54 national competitors going for the world title.
Finishing up as a World Barista Championship finalist has earned him a visit to Daterra Coffee in Minas Gerais, Brazil. Following his performance, for which he’d prepared for almost 10 months prior, Craig himself says, “I feel energised after that final. I really found another level and that is now my baseline going forward”.
He put in many after work hours’ practice time and had some of the world’s best coffee to work with thanks to Ninety Plus, as well as a great coach and mentor Pete Licata, 2013 World Barista Champion, and Holly Bastin.
In another exciting development, Greek Brewer’s Cup champion Stefanos Domatiotis won the 2014 World Brewer’s Cup championship using Craig’s Ninety Plus Maker Series coffee.
Craig’s world quality performance attracted a growing legion of fans and followers throughout the competition and has no doubt inspired a new generation of competition baristas. He’s well and truly cemented the respect of his industry mentors including Veneziano managing director Craig Dickson, colleagues (the team at Veneziano Coffee Roasters), fellow Australians and gained attention from the rest of the coffee world.
Interestingly, Craig’s been touted as kicking off the fourth wave of specialty coffee in a blog article by Kostas Sideris, a freelancer, blogger and barista/coffee trainer at highly recognised vocational college IEK Praxis in Athens, Greece, who attributes this claim to the whole notion of introducing the feedback cycle, as opposed to the typical ‘coffee chain’, that forms the basis of Craig’s presentation.
Craig’s career progression is definitely one of the great examples of the barista’s craft as a profession, the very reason that these competitions exist. Importantly, Craig developed his own hybrid coffee processing method as a guest at Panama Gesha Estates of Ninety Plus Coffee’s ‘Maker Series’. Craig’s competition coffee was handpicked and processed all by himself, in what was a true experiment to influence the flavour characteristics.
It has allowed Craig to introduce the fruity character that a natural coffee offers without the overwhelming flavours, as well as the vibrancy and clarity of a washed coffee; something that he was keen to achieve. To achieve this outcome of combining both characteristics in the one coffee, he left it in the cherry for the first 16 hours (for sweetness and fruit characteristics) and then pulped and fermented it for 12 hours before rinsing and returning to the drying beds to finish the process.
Despite his intimate knowledge of the coffee, Craig made it clear that the most important element of his performance is the feedback; whether it’s the judges assessing his routine or his general customers back home telling him what they prefer. This arms him with the ability to go back again and make more adjustments at the processing stage to give the customer a coffee they will enjoy even more.
Meanwhile for Craig, who through Think Tank is the Australian exclusive distributor of Ninety Plus coffees and Steampunk, it’s an even busier ‘business as usual’ whilst he continues to receive congratulations and acknowledgement on a performance of a lifetime, both verbally and via social media.
It seems Pat Connolly, roaster at Veneziano, was right when he called Craig the ‘People’s Champ’. Either way, he was and definitely still is, a favourite.
Details of Craig’s championship coffee for the world finals are as follows:
Nectarine, lime, silky medium mouthfeel, earl grey bergamot tea
Biscuit base, subtle apricot and a caramel sweetness
Craig invites the judges to select one of two recipes, that highlight predicting future flavour characteristics.
He predicts double time in the cherry would yield a more natural character of rich red stone fruit notes like plum and with a washed characteristic, it would achieve more complex citrus notes. The judges in the final selected the second option, of what the washed coffee would be like:
– original note is lime but he adds more complexity of acidity with some pink grapefruit (4ml)
– add subtle sweetness (a character associated with washed coffee) with honey syrup (6ml)
– cold infusion of early grey tea (6ml); cold is important because you can have a longer extraction time that doesn’t over extract extra bitterness, tannins are incredibly soft but more complex
– mineral water (8ml) adds vibrancy and clarity