In early April, Backyard Opera had the privilege of sitting in on Australian Barista Champion Matthew Lewin’s routine as he prepared to compete in the World Barista Championships in Boston. Yesterday, Lewin advanced to the semi-finals of the World Barista Championships.
Welcoming us into the Ona Coffee’s Canberra training room, Lewin had the air of a barista that actually knows your name, not just your coffee order. Seated with two other observers along a bench, Lewin informed us that what he was about to do today was bridge the dark and the light sides of coffee.
While the trendier cafes in coffee hubs such as Sydney and Melbourne may be all about the latest filter and lightly roasted coffee, Lewin knows from experience working behind the machine that the majority of customers will stick to familiar milk-based espresso drinks. This was the basis of the routine, acknowledging that without these customers who come in, day in and day out, there wouldn’t be a specialty coffee scene to speak of, thus Lewin began with his first drink, a silky smooth milk and espresso concoction that reminded us of why we first fell in love with coffee.
The beans that Lewin was working with for this routine are from the Honduran mountain estate of La Huerta. With a diorama reflecting this origin on the table in front of us, Lewin explained how these coffee beans were grown at an altitude where there is almost a permanently layer of cloud cover shrouding the coffee plants. This makes for a long ripening process, and deep flavours of blood orange and grapefruit could be discerned in Lewin’s second drink, a straight espresso.
But bringing together the black and white of coffee in one routine meant that Lewin did not go off into the world of fruity dark coffee, instead we were brought back to the rich sweetness of coffee in the cacao nibs placed in front of us. Although intended to go along with the first drink, the sweetness of chocolate returned in Matt’s final drink, a cold brew coffee with a chunk of frozen coffee as ice in the centre. With a rich, date-like syrupy sweetness, yet containing a mild citrus tang, this was the ideal median between the worlds of dark and light coffee.