Swiss Barista Champion, congratulations André. How was the competition?
Thank you! The competition was an experience to say the least. I was a first time competitor in the championships, which I think helped me a lot. I wasn’t really nervous going in, as I had no idea what to expect, though I was a bit like a racehorse with the blinkers on. Being marketing director, I have to be good in front of people, which helped my confidence on the stage.
The competition itself consists of just two 15 minute rounds; one qualifying and one final, though it felt like I was on stage for a good 2 or 3 hours. It’s quite surreal that the hours, days, weeks of training and practice all lead up to such a short stint in front of the judges.
How did you train for the competition?
The real training started six months before the competition. I spent roughly 8-10 hours a day practicing my coffee and milk technique and perfecting my signature beverage. As I was working throughout, a lot of my training was after work hours and weekends. The longest day saw me on my feet for 21 hours.
Many of those hours were spent with my trainer Daniel Fischer, our head barista in Switzerland. He’s a six-time Swiss Barista Championship competitor, so was a huge help in learning the rules inside out, as well as the dos and don’ts of the competition. Daniel has nine years’ coffee experience and was a goldmine of information and tips.
Spending so much time together was great for our friendship; it’s a journey we made together and his help was invaluable.
You mentioned a signature beverage – what was yours?
As well as the four espresso and four milk-based drinks, the competition requires you to create a signature beverage of your own design.
My espresso of choice was an Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, a personal favourite of mine. However, I graded the coffee using a method from Kenya – which takes into account the size and density of the beans – and separated and grouped them according to their size and density.
The biggest beans were the least complex of them all, with a heavier body which shone nicely through the milk for my cappuccino. The medium sized beans were balanced, sweet and smooth with no dominant acidity making for great espresso. And the smallest beans were the densest ever measured in our lab. They gave a really nice acidity with strong floral jasmine notes, perfect for my signature drink.
The drink itself was made of four shots of the Yirgacheffe espresso. As well as jasmine notes there is a strong yellow stone-fruit sweetness, with apricot and peach notes. To accentuate these, I worked in 10g of apricot compote and 65g of jasmine tea. To help bring out the sweetness and heavier body I infused nitrogen from a cylinder. Finally, I served the drink in a cognac glass aromatised with pure essential jasmine oil. We called it a ‘flower bomb’.
Now you’ve set your eyes on the World Barista Championship (WBC), what do the next steps in your journey look like?
It’s a long road to Seoul in November. And of course I’ll be stepping up my training. I’m heading out to Japan, the home of UCC Coffee to train at the academy and meet the Ueshima family. Being the first UCC Coffee competitor for a while to reach the WBC, the company has given me so much support. We will discuss my approach to tackling the WBC as well as helping me pick a team of trainers. The need for teamwork in the run up to the competition will be crucial to my performance. It’s unfortunate Daniel’s duties in the lab in Switzerland leave him unable to join me, however he’ll still be a big part of my training team and preparation for the competition.
I’ll be choosing a new coffee, as by November the Yirgacheffe won’t be at its best. It’ll be a case of sourcing crops which are at their prime in time for the competition, and flavours, bodies and styles more suited to the world stage.