The 2019 Hudsons Barista Championships took place in November, with teams from Australia and New Zealand competing for the title, as well as four baristas vying to be the ONELR Latte Art Champion. We went behind the scenes to meet the competitors and judges and get the scoop from the Hudsons MD Justin Scotti.
November 2019 saw the second annual Hudsons Barista Championships, held in Yarraville in Melbourne’s inner west. The day was the culmination of months of work that saw 125 entries with over 700 coffees made over 86 heats. The final saw competitors from Tasmania, Queensland, South Australia, NSW and for the first time, Auckland.
The day is separated into two sections – The ONELR Latte Art Championship, where four competitors battled it out for the most creative froth, and the Hudsons Barista Championship, where three teams served up 20 different coffee orders in 15 minutes, then served up their specialty coffee. (Bloody Mocha, anyone?)
Needless to say, excitement was high on the day, with plenty of vocal support. To Hudsons Managing Director Justin Scotti; “today is a combination of the efforts of over a hundred people. In amongst our business, we’ve probably got 500 people making coffees every day, and over a hundred who’ve tried to win this prize. This day represents all of their efforts.”
A passion for coffee
As well as a lot of hard work, to Justin the day is about “Today, you get the best of the best, and what actually happens on a day like this is you get those with the most passion,” says Justin. “What we’re trying to do is really encourage that passion and foster it and have them take it back into their stores and have it grow. So the more people that have a passion for making coffee, the greater the brand is going to be. That’s what today is about.”
Vinny from Sydney’s Northern Beaches agrees. A competitor in the Latte Art Championship, Vinny sees it as a day to reconnect with a passion for coffee.“This competition is really good because sometimes you’re busy at your work and you just focus on the numbers, like – just send the coffees out. Today gets it back to the root of the coffee industry. You just have to make sure every single coffee you deliver to your customer is sensational. That’s how I feel. Especially from this competition.”
“You just have to make sure every single coffee you deliver to your customer is sensational. That’s how I feel. ”
— VINNY, HUDSONS NORTHERN BEACHES
While there is a fun vibe in the room, with plenty of good-natured heckling and music pumping, for the judges, it’s serious business.
This year’s judges are Andy Hearnden, Hudsons Head of Food and Coffee, Jeffrey Dutton from Alchemy Syrups and Marco Marciano from long-time Hudsons partner Fraus. So what are the judges looking for? “Well, for me, I think it’s overall consistency and balance of beverage is pretty key,” Andy says. And how do you get through judging over 60 cups of coffee in a few hours. “Lots of water,” laughs Jeffrey. We’re splitting up the tasting,” he continues. “So we’ve already mapped out which ones we’re tasting. And no, can’t drink it all, even though you like it!”
For the first time, Hudsons Barista Championships have an international flavour, with a team from Wondertree in Auckland taking part in the Team Challenge, and Deep from Vantage Bar taking part in the latte art comp. “It’s nice having the New Zealanders here for the first time,” says Justin.
As well as the competitors, the room is full of onlookers, supporters, suppliers and even support crews who have come from interstate to cheer their teams on. “I think when you look at things that really stand out today, when you get someone coming down just to cheer on their team members like the manager from our Cairns store has done, that just shows her passion for her teammates,” says Justin.
“Of all of the things that you see in the day that you walk away, that you really like, it’s probably the highlight for me.”
And the winners are….
While it’s all about the passion, there are winners on the day. It is a competition after all. This year’s ONELR Latte Art Champion is Anna from Hudsons Greenslopes in Queensland. Her creation, a bunny in a forest, was judged to be the most consistent and creative. “I wanted something different than just rosettas and tulips and swans, and because I’ve been watching (World Champion Latte Artist) Jibbi Little,” says Anna. “All the latte artists now are doing free pours and very little etching.”
And the winners of the 2019 Hudsons Barista Championships were Trudy and the team from Hudsons Burnie. Trudy, who owns three Hudsons franchises in north-west Tasmania, didn’t like her chances when we caught her after the round. “We stuffed up at the start!” she told us. But the team recovered and won by what was said to be quite a margin in the end. Their team specialty – ‘The TNT’ – featured white and milk chocolate, ice cream laced with Tim Tam dust and not one but two Tim Tams on the side. But it was the consistent quality of their 20 coffees that got them there. To Justin, “I was really happy to see Trudy because as a franchisee, you often, some people think that they’re too senior for this competition. Having one of our franchisees being fully invested in what we’re doing, really is a lot of encouragement that they’re on board with what we’re trying to do.”
Trudy can add her trophy to her ‘Franchisee Of The Year’ award. Now that’s passion.