#35: BARISTA CHAMPION OF PANAMA—AUSEL GADI DEL VALLE FRANKLIN
Though Panama’s coffee has been regarded as some of the finest not only in the world at this moment, but in history, it’s strange to think that it took until 2009 for Panama to have its first barista championship, but that’s the story. Ausel is the first ever barista champion of Panama, and we’re thrilled to have him here! The Petersons, of the famous Hacienda Esmeralda in Panama, were nearby to cheer him on, as were tons of his fellow competitors. And would you even doubt that he used a Geisha coffee? For Ausel’s signature drink, he infused his espresso with coconut milk and served it cold. You’ve done your country proud, Ausel!
#36: BARISTA CHAMPION OF CROATIA—TOMISLAV MRDEZA
Tomislav is effortlessly charming, and really brings the flavor and experience of Croatia to the World Barista Championship with his presentation. He stays firmly rooted in his own culture through his choices for coffee, ingredients, servingware, and discussion. He says his coffee will impart more aroma than the typical coffee, and that if it is consumed within 10 to 20 second of extraction it will taste at its full potential. For Tomislav’s signature drink, he prepares a very fresh strawberry jam bu grating fresh strawberries on stage, and adds vanilla ice cream and strawberry syrup, and ice, cane sugar and chocolate. The service is delightful—he offers the drinks in tall glasses in bowls of ice, which he tops with fresh whole strawberries, and then pours a bit of strawberry syrup over the top. Very nicely done, Tomislav!
#37: BARISTA CHAMPION OF RUSSIA—KIRA MALCHENKO
Seems the audience had high hopes for Russia, and Kira did not disappoint. Hailing from the famous Coffee Mania in Moscow, Kira has spent the past few days practicing at Octane Coffee here in Atlanta. She is obviously very familiar with her coffee (I think she’s using coffee from Tim Wendelboe?) and as she pours her cappuccinos, she tells the judges they will taste a creamy aftertaste of roasted hazelnuts. I like how she asks them to close their eyes while consuming each drink—Kira has definitely conjured some whimsy for her performance, which is rooted in professionalism and coffee knowledge. But she’s still having fun up there. She combines gorgonzola cheese with her espresso as a sauce for her signature drink—another big, bold move. But she’s so comfortable with her topic — she knows her drink so well, and she explains it deftly to the judges, telling them they will enjoy a very delicate gorgonzola aftertaste, be treated to the bakery aroma of vanilla, and even taste dark chocolate. Extremely well done, Kira.