Eastern Cape’s best baristas set for national event

Angeline with baristas Simpiwe Adams (left) of La Vela Cafe and Sisa Mapetu of Como Cafe. Picture: Salvelio Meyer

By Louise Liebenberg

THEY’RE all steaming ahead… National Barista Championship coordinator Angeline McLagan, of Urban Espress Coffee and Co in Port Elizabeth, this week helped organise a workshop at the Roastmaster Cafe in Brickmakers Kloof to prepare the Eastern Cape’s six contenders for the highly anticipated national finals later this month.

Held under the banner of Scasa, the Speciality Coffee Association of Southern Africa, the nationals will be held at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town from March 22 to 24, with the country’s best overall barista (the term used for a professionally trained coffee maker) going on to compete in the world championship in Vienna, Austria, in June – all expenses paid!

And Angeline and her fellow committee members from Scasa Eastern Cape – including cafe owners and representatives from the likes of Urban Espress, Sumatran Premium Coffee, Ciro and Tribeca, are taking no chances. Having hosted the very first Eastern Cape regionals at the Homemakers expo in July last year, they are determined the six finalists to have emerged from this region are going to shine when they participate on the national stage for the very first time – and are judged according to World Barista Championship standards.

The competition has been held for several years and with Durban traditionally walking away with the honours, the Eastern Cape has a lot to prove. To even remotely have a shot at being the nation’s best they’ll really have to know their stuff… the current international champion is from Bogota, Columbia – now that’s coffee country! – and according to Angeline works closely with local coffee growers and roasters.

At the training session on Thursday the baristas – including current Eastern Cape champion Percy Chikwira who came all the way from Jeffreys Bay along with his employer Jayne Davies from J’Bay’s sensational Infood Deli and fellow finalist Belinda Ruiters – were given a thorough introduction into what they might expect from the nationals. They will be judged on both sensory and technical aspects and there are very specific criteria for the perfect espresso and the perfect cappuccino (right down to the “stretch”, shine and density of the milk in the cappuccino!). Angeline has promised to teach The Global Table more about this fascinating subject in future, including how to pick out the subtleties of taste, aroma, colour and “stretch” – we can’t wait!

Each finalist had a turn to prep their station and conjure up the very best cappuccinos and espressos they could manage for the mock judges on the day. The baristas were also taken through the scoring process which in Cape Town will be done by trained and accredited coffee aficionados so expert they’ll quickly poke holes in any lacklustre effort.

Besides creating perfect cappuccinos and espressos the six baristas will each be required to present a “signature” drink to the judges. We’re told they’ve been feverishly experimenting and while no one is revealing any secrets just yet, there are sure to be some inspired flavour combinations!

The six finalists from the Eastern Cape are, in the order they achieved at the regionals: 1. Percy Chikirwa (InFood); 2. Sisa Mapetu (Como Cafe); 3. Tristan Tait (Deli Street Cafe); 4. Simpiwe Adams (La Vela Cafe); 5. Belinda Ruiters (InFood); and 6. Lennox Lubabalo (Woolworths Cafe Greenacres). Tristan was unfortunately unable to compete in the nationals and so he has been replaced by Mike Chilwa, also from Woolworths Greenacres, who came seventh at last year’s regionals. Sisa, incidentally, is now with Como Cafe but was working for Valley Harvest when he reached the finals; both he and Simpiwe were encouraged by Ciro to enter.

Urban Espress Coffee & Co’s Donovan McLagan and Shaun Aupias from Sumatran Premium Coffee took charge of this week’s training while Wayne Ferreira from Mugg & Bean was the sensory judge.

Donovan is the current Eastern Cape Cup Tasters champion and will compete for the national title in Cape Town over the same weekend. And Mike from Woolworths Greenacres is the region’s reigning “latte art” champ and he, along with Sumatran’s Shaun who was the runner-up – will also compete for that national title.

“Some incredibly beautiful espresso shots were extracted, smooth and sweet… as well as a few technical mess-ups from overdosing and incorrect grind settings,” Angelina said following Thursday’s workshop.

“The Scasa Eastern Cape committee is so proud of each of our baristas and we have so enjoyed seeing their passion for the coffee industry grow. We know that, should they apply all they have learnt over the past nine months, they will stand out at nationals.”

Contact Angeline McLagan on 082-612-1515 for further details on the national championships.

Infood Deli's Jayne Davies (right) from Jeffreys Bay entered baristas Percy Chikwira and Belinda Ruiters for last year's regionals. Percy went on to win the Eastern Cape event and both are now fully prepped for this month's nationals. Picture: Salvelio Meyer

Urban Espress Coffee & Co's Donovan McLagan (left) with Shaun Aupias from Sumatran Premium Coffee and Wayne Ferreira from Mugg & Bean. Picture: Salvelio Meyer

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