It was firsts all round as espresso maker Johanna Harakis won her first barista competition – the competition was also the first held by regional coffee roasters Owens Coffee.

Johanna, who works at The Guardhouse Café at Berry Head, Brixham, was named the first Owens Coffee barista champion in a new contest to find the best espresso maker. Baristas from across the region competed for the title. Luna Moretti of The Guardhouse Café was also shortlisted.

Johanna said: “This is my first ever barista competition so I’ve been a bit nervous. You’ve got to make sure the coffee comes out at the right speed – about 22 to 25 seconds – and the weight of the coffee is around 16 to 18 grams.

“If it’s too quick it comes out bitter and acidic – if you get it right it’s smooth and it’s lush and you get a really good hit.”

Jenny McDonough, head of training and talent at Owens Coffee, said there was a serious side to the competition.

“I’ve been in the hospitality industry for a long time in the South West and the feeling that you are just a waiter or just someone serving coffee is something I’d like to see the end of – because it is a career, a profession,” she said.

“We want people who are working in the industry to know there’s a lot more out there if they want it – and we want them to know they are respected in the profession.

“It is important to encourage talent and professional ability, which is something that we champion at Owens.

“There are different brew ratios and there are guidelines on how to make the perfect espresso.

“The competition tested the barista’s knowledge and their interpretation of those guidelines. Competitors chose one of our coffees for the espresso and two milk-based drinks and then told the judges how to set up the calibration of the espresso machine to make the perfect cup.”

Lorraine Bridden, founder of Owens Coffee, said: “We take a huge amount of pride in sourcing our coffee beans and roasting them to perfection – but you can make or break a cup of coffee if the calibration in the machine isn’t right. It’s about getting the flavours right and presenting the coffee.

“A good cup has to taste right and be well presented. But the competition is not just about the coffee – it is about enthusiasm and passion too.

“This is about showcasing good barista skills across the region and because of this, our first competition has been a great success – hopefully, we will make it bigger in the future.”

Guest judge Esther-Hope Gibbs, added: “This has been a great event for baristas across the South West. There hasn’t been a competition like this for a long time in the region.

“These baristas have showcased their skills, have had an opportunity to meet and chat with other industry professionals who are as passionate about coffee as they are, and a chance to learn more from each other too. The prizes were fab, too!”

First prize included an Ottomatic CHEMEX Coffeemaker from Marco Beverages Systems worth more than £300. There were also prizes from Eversfield Organic, Flapjackery, Boo Chi Kombucha, Luscombe Drinks and Bar Buoy Cocktails.

Original story on Torbay Weekly