This year a lot of focus was on removing doubt, as I knew by that point the impact doubt could have on your confidence. So I attacked doubt by spending months in the training room, leaving my ego and assumptions behind, re-exploring everything I knew about making coffee, and testing every variable until I had developed a very systematic and deliberate way of storing, ageing, extracting, serving coffee and everything in between.
The team and I put a lot of focus into green sourcing, as with everything else, leaving no stone unturned. This resulted in us using an amazing Anaerobic Natural Sidra produced by Nestor Lasso on his farm El Diviso in Huila, Colombia. This coffee had beautiful purple fruit notes and a distinct red wine-like finish.
During the preparation, I did everything I could to ensure I was mentally prepared to win. I was meditating morning and night, regular flotation therapy sessions, massage, and acupuncture, as well as visualising the win and my routine morning and night. On top of this, I saw a mind coach Darren Pereira who helped ensure I was on track and recognised any negative/destructive thought patterns that may be holding me back.
I received a tremendous amount of help this year from my team at Axil, namely Dave, Matt, Jack, Sophie and Jon. We each brought our expertise and experience to the regular sessions we had, building and refining my concept and developing a routine I was sincerely proud of.
We ended up winning the regionals and the nationals that year and were in preparation for my first WBC. Being in Melbourne, we had less logistics to worry about, and we approached the preparation in the same way we approached the nationals routine. It allowed us more time to take the routine and drinks to another level. We all worked hard refining the routine, extractions, signature drink and visual elements right until the very last moment knowing that we had left nothing on the table.
The first round of competition felt a little shaky as I didn't have my item/on the day checklists organised as well as I should have. There were also subtle differences that needed to be made during the set up time (this is the 15 minutes of time you have to set up your station and extractions prior to your routine), that I didn't account for. Due to this I didn't finish everything I needed to during my set up time, and started my performance feeling flustered and shaky. With the hopes that I had made it through to the following round (semi-finals) I tightened up my lists, and closed all open loops on what I needed to do and prepare. Luckily my name was announced and I made it through to the semi-finals. On the day of semi's I followed my plan, rolled to perform my routine but made one big mistake by forgetting to turn on my magnetic stirrer/hot plate on. This affected the temperature of my signature drink as well as the mix of ingredients. Worried this could severely affect my score I waited once again for the announcement. Thankfully my name was announced and I made a mental note to place extra attention on not making that same mistake again.
Day 3, Finals. This day I felt the most relaxed. Being the last day of competition there was nothing more I could do to prepare. There was something liberating about this, and the confidence knowing that we had done everything we could left me with a sense of confidence. I tasted the coffee with Jack that morning during our practice time, and it was the best series of coffees I'd experienced in my life. Finishing the practice time in high spirits Jack and I prepared the trolleys and ingredients backstage. When it came time to present my routine I was feeling good, called time and had a lot of fun being up there enjoying the moment with the judges.
When it came to the final awards ceremony I was feeling confident but you never know what the other competitors scored, so I was just grateful to be standing up there amongst the top baristas in the world. When my name was announced champion I felt a rush of emotions and saw my team cheering for me in the audience along with many others. It's a moment I hold very close to the heart.
Since the win, it's been a journey in itself with opportunities to work and travel, along with a host of media commitments. Luckily Dave with his experience has been guiding me through a lot of this new territory. As a company we've definitely felt more of a presence online and recognition of the brand from all over the world. Axil's supported me since day one and it's great to see the results of competition feed back into the brands success. My goals now are to work with Axil to help showcase to a wider audience who we are and what we do, as well as make the most of opportunities to connect with more of the industry and hopefully have a positive impact on baristas and competitors alike. Competition has been the most impactful undertaking I've been on, and through it I've been able to develop my skills as a barista, on stage, and in life. It's allowed me to connect with some amazing coffee and people in the industry. It's almost a little bittersweet that my journey in Barista Competition has come to an end, but I'd still like to be involved in some way or another whether through coaching, judging, or who knows, competing in another division one day.