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Kiwi Barista Goes For Gold At ‘Coffee Olympics’

Kiwi Barista Goes For Gold At ‘Coffee Olympics’

Preparing for the Olympics is hard work but not many people would expect it to be hot and steamy with a few spills!

That is unless you’re preparing for the 2004 World Barista Championship in Italy, widely regarded among coffee aficionados as the ‘Coffee Olympics’.

Christchurch-based Carl Sara of Muffin Break is currently preparing to take on the world’s best in Trieste from 18-20 June. Carl knows all about the trials and tribulations of creating great coffee, having worked his way from novice to National Champion in just five years.

Carl and business partner Scott Manderson opened the South City Mall Muffin Break in 1999 and admits to knowing very little about coffee at the time. “When Scott and I first joined Muffin Break we had had no previous experience with coffee other than our initial training. We quickly identified that quality coffee was a key component in providing a great customer experience in stores more renowned for their muffins.

“From then on we couldn’t walk into a café without checking out their barista and seeing how they made coffee and the different techniques used. Many people assume making coffee is simple, and really the basic principles are. But there is also a lot to consider in terms of the importance of good equipment, training, clean water, service, delivery and most significantly, practice. A good barista has the experience and skill to accumulate all the facets of coffee into a single cup of espresso.

“Making coffee also allows you the opportunity to show off your creative side and this will be a key component of the forthcoming World Championship. It’s also an aspect I’ve been working particularly hard on.”

To get to the World Championship, Carl first competed against other baristi at a regional level. After taking out the 2003 South Island Barista of the Year title, he was assured a position in the finals of the Robert Harris National Barista Competition. Carl won this competition, held at the prestigious National Culinary Fare in Auckland, by defeating in excess of 120 entrants from some of the finest coffee houses in the country to qualify him as the New Zealand representative at this year’s World Barista Championships in Trieste.

Carl cites practice and dedication as the reasons for his growing catalogue of medals. “When I first started out I made some dreadful coffees, but eventually I began to build much better tasting and presentable espressos. The up and coming World Championship is a quantum leap from where I initially was but I am feeling very positive and really looking forward to showcasing some Kiwi ingenuity and flare.

“I have to prepare four espresso, four cappuccinos and four specialty espresso based drinks for six judges. I’ve also got to design a fully commentated routine that is both entertaining and informative for the judges and spectators. We’ll be assessed on presentation, work flow and rate, flare, understanding of process, consistency and overall quality. I am focused in growing the strong respect that the New Zealand coffee industry has developed through a winning performance on the world stage.”


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