The Golden Bean Competition 2020 Wrap Up.
Who would have thought, with everything considered, I would have the pleasure of writing a wrap-up article on this year’s Golden Bean Coffee Roasters Competition & Conference. In a year that has given us fire, flood and pandemic!
GB is the largest coffee roasting competition & conference on the globe!
On the surface it is not necessarily the most Covid of friendly events!! It’s a coffee roasting competition, judged by the roasters, for the roasters, endeavouring to find Australia’s best coffee roasting business.
Apart from the usual scenario of cramming half the roasting population into a venue at a glamorous location, sharing cups and spoons in the process of separating the wheat from the chaff of coffee entries, there’s a substantial amount of after hours drinking and socialising, whereby the industry gets to mix and mingle with their industry colleagues and share ideas and education.
However, try telling Mr Sean Edwards, MD of Café Culture – who has produced the GB for over 14 years – what he shall and shan’t do! Sean, better pronounced Shone (from Irish heritage), took all the lessons that our proud industry has offered us in recent months from pro-activeness, positivity, optimism and most importantly adaptability, to produce a Covid-friendly plan to produce and run this years’ GB.
Sean tells me “we wanted to give the industry something to get passionate and excited about and ultimately for the winners, winning medals to hang their hat on”.
Last years’ GB consisted of over 150 delegates attending and judging, from every state in Australia, not forgetting and including our respected NZ cousins, who could also enter.
More than 1,500 coffee entries were put forward and it ran over 4 days, including an awards ceremony at a secret location with a fancy dress code, which happened to be the Slim Dusty Centre, with country and western as the appropriate theme.
The Café Culture team, led by Sean Edwards (Head Bean) and daughter Matilda (Little Bean) decided to ditch the big venue in 2020, for a local coffee roaster, Peak Coffee in Port Macquarie, which had just been extended during Covid lockdown to include offices for Café Culture and a vast coffee house.
This allowed for 50 coffee roasters to be invited (allowing for social distancing) and head judges from interstate to attend. Other adaptations included stripping the categories from 11 to 5. These were:
- Milk Franchise
- Alternative Milk (Judged on Alternative Dairy Co. Oat Milk)
Other changes included: a limit of 500 coffee entries, one entry per roaster in each category.
The competition was run over 2.5 days instead of the usual 4, the awards ceremony delayed, to be announced, in keeping with Covid, on a virtual platform on Friday 4th December.
I would like to say the socialising was limited, but it’s the hospitality industry after all and you could try putting the coffee roasting industry in a cardboard box and they would still find a way to have fun!
It kicked off on Thursday night, with a welcome food and drinks event at a new and exciting cocktail bar ‘Stick’, in the centre of Port Macquarie, where new friends were introduced, and old acquaintances familiarised.
Friday was the official beginning of GB and everybody rolled up with great energy and excitement for what was to come. All attendees used the appropriate QR code to check in and temperatures were taken. A gift bag offering samples and Golden Bean T-shirt given!
After a few introductions by the MC, head judge Raihaan Esat (Coffee Commune) then ran a calibration session, whereby the delegates were separated onto tables, with head category judges and the process was explained and regulated.
Each coffee entry was to be given comprehensive feedback, to be relayed back to the roaster entrant, post competition.
The other element to this big operation is an Engine Room, which was screened off from the delegates, where 500 coffee bean entries needed to be extracted into the appropriate categories of coffee.
Rancilio RS1 coffee machines, EK model Mahlkonig grinders, supplied by AMC, sponsored this room. Behmors supplied the brew system for the ‘Filter Category’ and last but not least Barista Technology supplied the Puqpress Q2’s.
Behind the screens was organised chaos, choreographed by Peak Coffee’s Head Roaster, Ainsley Harrison, who was assisted by three baristas, handpicked from some leading coffee businesses and a handful of runners supplied by Wauchope High School’s hospitality dept. The pumping music overflowed, keeping the tempo high and providing an excitingly edgy atmosphere.
The coffee judging ran from morning to late afternoon, only broken by lunch and speaker sessions by Rachel Glasbergen from Alternative Dairy Co. who talked about their plant-based milks, which by the way are taking the market by storm, as well as Greg Gates, founding father of Café Dunk, a new solution for the solution, to bring back the reusable cup into the café (a brilliant but simple product, 100% effective against Covid) and Jeremy Hall, representing Riverina Fresh, this years GB Milk sponsor.
By the end of the day the coffee jitters had started to take effect on the dedicated judges, although they fared far better than I imagined, with the amount of tasting they had done.
Everyone was sent home to refresh and return to Peak Coffee for an evening of drinks and street food, served by Carlos & Co. On the menu was a choice of slow cooked, pulled pork tacos or fish tacos with slaw along with a perfect accompaniment of beer and wine.
Day 2 is much the same, although the excitement and energy from the delegates had only increased, as we moved closer to the finals.
Ainsley, in the engine room amazed me as he managed to sniff out a good coffee from 100 yards away amongst other extracted coffees. He explained to me in no uncertain terms “That the cream always rises to the top”.
The day and the dedicated focus of the judges was only interrupted by lunch and speaker sessions by Jo Horsley from Responsible Cafes, who spoke about how the not-for-profit organisation had ditched the discounted coffee for a coffee bean rating, and Pentair’s Technical Sales Manager, Dave King talked to us about the importance of water filtration.
Traditionally all the participants in the Engine Room, including baristas and runners, bring out the last coffee of the competition together in union. As always, there was rapturous applause as the room lit up in recognition for their hard work, as well as possible relief of not having to judge anymore coffee.
Like the encore at the theatre there was much backslapping, cheering and clapping while Ainsley and team took a bow and impulsive speeches were made in adoration of each other.
Afterwards beers were produced from the previous evening frivolities, the delegates slipped away for an official night off, although most found entertainment in Port Macquarie’s Saturday nightlife.
Sunday morning brought the finals, whereby the top three coffees in each category were brought to the table for judging by the head category judges and Head Judge, Raihaan.
There was a festive atmosphere around them all when Sean and the Café Culture team laid on a bacon, sausage and brioche barbeque, with fresh watermelon and fresh juice.
The judges surrounded the long table which held the top coffees with golden spoons. They stirred, slurped and spat to best identify the keynotes in each coffee (much like you imagine happens with wine tasting).
Everybody was excitedly gathered around trying to grab a peek through the live filming and photography of this vital part of the competition. When the Judges were ready, there was a countdown by the MC “3-2-1” and the judges had to point in unison to the cup they nominated as the category winner.
After the judging ended, the socialising continued through the morning, as new relationships were cemented with swapping of phone numbers, and roasters went their way with complimentary boxes of ADC Oat Milk and samples of Café Dunk.
Then the Café Culture team were left to input all the judging sheets and feedback forms for the announcement of not just the category medal winners, but also the momentous overall Golden Bean Winner for 2020!
Watch this space! The final results will be available on a virtual platform on Friday 4th December – to keep up to date with all announcements make sure you follow our social feeds – instagram / facebook and you can also subscribe to our enews.
Article by Rob Marlowe, Café Culture International.