Sengmany Sanoubane may think he has taken an indirect path to becoming a barista, however here at Café Culture we have witnessed many young champions evolve the same way. Working in hospitality to pay their way through university they never imagined finding real passion in a job they initially regarded as a means to a totally different end.
In a short time Sengmany Sanoubane has come a long way, and so far this year he has taken home the winner’s trophy at both the ACT Latte Art Championships and the Pura/Dairy Farmers Latte Art Competition at Café Biz 2014.
The Pura/Dairy Farmers Latte Art Competition has been running for more than 10 years now, with its aim being to encourage newcomers to the competition arena, to develop skills and to build a strong barista community.
Café Culture caught up with Sengmany Sanoubane for a quick chat about his life in coffee so far.
Hi Sengmany. how did you first become interested in coffee and becoming a barista?
I took an indirect path to becoming a barista. I worked as a dishwasher in an Asian restaurant in Canberra for my first job in hospitality while studying in Year 12. Several months later, staff became sick quite regularly, and I was asked to become a kitchen hand and sometimes a waiter. The restaurant had a small coffee machine and no one, including me, had any idea how to use it properly. I inevitably had to make coffees in busy hours, and it was a terrible experience.
Then I became interested in how to use the machine and began doing some research on milk texturing and coffee extraction. Latte art was probably the first impression that motivated me to learn more about other aspects of coffee. I then started working at several cafés to practice and refine my barista skills.
Where do you work now and what are the great things about your employment?
I am currently working part-time at Espresso Room in Canberra as well as studying full-time at the ANU. Espresso Room was founded by Michael Rose in 2012 with the vision of making good quality coffee easily accessible to everyone. What captivates me about Espresso Room is that it is owned and operated by the baristas, which assures a high level of passion and quality that goes into the making of every cup of coffee. ONA Coffee provides our coffee beans and training for all of our baristas. Their signature trademark is “Project Origin”, a green bean sourcing program that has emphasis on quality, sustainability and fairness.
Have you entered coffee competitions previously? How much preparation for comps have you done? Do you intend to continue competing?
Prior to competing in the Café Biz competition, I competed in the ACT Latte Art Championship 2014, which was my first competition, and I won it! As I am still very inexperienced, I needed to get as much preparation as possible before representing the ACT in the National Latte Art Championship, so I decided to enter the Café Biz competition.
With a busy uni workload, I didn’t have much time to practice. It took me a few days to make a decision on the coffee blend, signature drink and patterns for the competition. I then had limited time to practice my performance and presentation, so it was good experience under pressure for me.
Do you have a mentor or any idols in coffee?
ONA Coffee in Canberra changed my perception of coffee. The Master Class program that is run weekly by ONA Coffee helps in nurturing my barista skills and my knowledge about coffee. Their invaluable advice and support has contributed greatly to my success in competitions.
What is life about for you outside of coffee … any other passions, hobbies or pastimes?
My family and I immigrated to Australia nine years ago with the hope of a better life. I am currently studying a Bachelor of Science majoring in Psychology and Statistics at the ANU. I enjoy playing soccer and table tennis. I’m passionate about people. Making people happy makes me happy, and it gives me the motivation to learn how to make great tasting and beautifully presented coffee.
So what’s next for Sengmany Sanoubane?
I intend to focus on finishing my degree for the next 12 months while keeping in touch with coffee and attending the weekly Master Class program and cupping sessions. After my graduation, I intend to take the head barista position and a management role in a new Espresso Room café.
So there you go. It seems Sengmany has been bitten by the coffee bug? Will he stay in the industry? History tells us that he will, so we hope to see more of him on the competition stage and behind his machine. Either way Sengmany will be successful, so we wish him the best of luck in the near and distant future. Congratulations.