Craig Simon will represent Australia in the 2018 World Barista Championship in Amsterdam later this month. The three-time Australian barista champion lives in Melbourne, where he works with Veneziano Coffee Roasters. Craig will be competing with cups from Created Co.'s new Angle collection. We're stoked to partner with Craig, and caught up with him in the days leading up to the competition.
How do you describe a barista competition to non-coffee folk?
A barista competition is something like a 15-minute TED talk on coffee combined with service of 12 coffees to support the speech. It is about raising the professionalism of the barista and the best competitors propose new ideas for the future direction of specialty coffee.
From where/whom did you source the Colombian and Ethiopian coffees you used to win the Australian Barista Championship? Will you use the same producers for the WBC?
My Colombian producer is La Palma y El Toucan and my Ethiopian producer is Gesha Village. I have a little left of the same coffee from [the Australian Championship] and I asked them to ship me another batch of a similar coffee to my preparation base in UK.
How have your travels to origin shaped the way you select and present a coffee during competition?
Working with coffee producers has helped me both have a greater understanding of what goes into producing a great coffee and also how to process for specific flavor characteristics. Most importantly it has shown me the dedication and hard work they put in to make these fantastic coffees—I want to celebrate their work when I present these coffees.
Have you prepared differently for this WBC than in the previous years you competed?
This is my tenth year of competing and my third time preparing for the WBC. Over those many years I have focused on different things. In the beginning I was hyper-focused on making the best coffee possible and the techniques and discipline and practice required to do that. Now I focus mainly on the concepts I want to present and make sure that the speech really conveys that information clearly. I also focus a lot on the judges' experience, having taken a break from competition in 2016 and 2017; judging at the world championships in Dublin was a great opportunity to experience the other side of the table. The other thing I put a lot of effort into is the logistics of traveling to the other side of the world and presenting at the highest level. These are things that many new competitors don’t think about but can either make it effortless or really difficult to be prepared when it is time to roll out on stage.
What part of a barista competition makes you most nervous?
I always have a fair amount of nervous energy before wheeling out. I think it is normal when you are about to perform to get the butterflies and I think it is important as well as it gives you the extra energy to really give a big effort on stage.
How did you connect with the Created Co.? What do you find compelling about their new cup collection and why did you choose to use it?
We met at the SCA show in Seattle. I was really taken by the weight, style and—most importantly—the volume of the cups, as this is critical to a great tasting milk coffee. They taste great and they drink really well.
Cover photo: worldbaristachampionship.org