Exclusive Interview with the World Barista Champion Sasa Sestic

Tuesday, 28 April, 2015

Meet Sasa Sestic. You may never have heard of him before, but you sure will in the next year. He wowed the judges in Seattle and took the World Barista Championship title home to Australia, the first Australian to have successfully achieved this. He is a busy, busy man. Not only does he own a successful string of cafes, Ona Coffee, he is extremely involved at farm level with his green bean importing company, Project Origin. It also ushers in a new age where barista and farmer's relationship and experimentation is the most

TCM: So after the preparation, the agony, the thrill, and finally the victory, was it all worth it to be at this point?

Absolutely to me this is dream come true. Happiness and feeling I have is something I can not describe.

Many people in the coffee industry find themselves here after taking other paths in life, what was the moment that you knew coffee was going to be your passion and your business?

To me it was really simple, the first time I got job as coffee maker or barista if you like, I instantly fall in love with making coffees and since then I never looked back, that was in 2002.

What is the rivalry like at the Australian Champs?

Australian barista competition is really tough, to be in finals in Australia is really big thing. Big credit goes to AASCA our sponsors and of course our very well collaborated and passionate judges.

It is such a hotly contested competition, do you think that's why the Australians have such a good track record?

I can talk about my self I have been competing in Australian Barista competition for seven years now I I remember 2 years a go when I finished no 3 I competed with another 4 Australian barista champions this does not happen in any other counties. But when I won Australian competition this year even though this was my first WBC I actually felt really confutable with entire WBC experience especially in finals .

Where did the idea for the carbonic maceration processing originally stem from?

I have been involved in lot of different processing experiments in lot of different farms and I have done lot of ground work and learned what can potentially work and why..

Sam Corra our head roaster, Hugh Kelly (Ona coffee trainer)and myself were talking about processing coffee and somehow we started talking in same time about carbonic macerated wines and how this fermentation in wine improves flavour complexity and clarity of flavour but it does not encourage Acidic acidity , as we know acidic acidity can be found in coffee especially in some over-fermented lots and also natural process coffees.

And this conversation lead up to more , well lot more deeper discussions with wine makes experts and even beer brewers then coffee producers and finally Camilo, the farmer, in Colombia.

Below you can see the three different courses that he served in his 15 minute set:

Can you tell us a bit about your support team?
Firstly my amazing wife Beti while I was preparing for my Australian competition and also WBC she was father and mother of out two gorgeous kids Ana and Aleks.

My coach was Hidenori Izaki WBC champion 2014 this man is truly my inspiration and he managed to get best out of me. Sam corra not only was my roaster but we spent lot of time together tasting and finding beast possible roast profiles that can suit all different water and climate conditions.

Hugh Kelly (Ona Coffee Head Trainer) we spent way to much time together for 5 weeks we spent at least 70 hours together this man knew every single step of my routine he even knew exactly where every single cup or glass goes in what suitcase. And finally John Gordon from New Zealand as we know he was 3 times Uk barista champion. John helped with building best transformer of my grinders that can allow same grinding speed as back in Australia and of course with extensive training we had in seattle in Zoka coffee .

You were very ill during the competition, can you tell us a bit about the difficulty that travel adds to the mental game of the competition?
In semi finals I found not taste coffee to the extend as I would like and thankfully I had amazing team Kelly and Sam have done my preparation and polished all glassware and and Hide spent some time with me before preformace just to make sure that I come out on stage as best as I can.

I competed with 39 degree temperature, chest infection, low blood pressure and bronchitis. For me and my team during semi finals routine was probably most stressful performance. Saturday night I spent over 4 hours in hospital and thankfully to great care of doctors I was almost 100% on Sunday.

What do you think the value of competition is to our ever-expanding industry?

Exactly your words WBC helps to bring new values to our industry and this is platform for new ideas. In my opinion WBC is one of major reasons why our industry is developing so quick and in my opinion tho sis just beginning.

What do you hope to achieve in your time as the WBC Champ?
As you already might know I am very attached to coffee farms and I love working and developing coffee at farming level. So now i have opritunity to help to push our industry even further by sharing ideas and developing relationship I have with producers so we can work together make growing specialty coffee approachable to more farmers even once at the lower altitudes. My dream is that during this year I can inspire not only baristas but coffee producers world wide to push our industry further.

And lastly how are you going to celebrate?
With coffee and a glass of wine :)

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