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Meet Canada’s barista king

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For 10 years, barista Benjamin Put has been perfecting the art of coffee. Now, all that hard work is paying off as Canada’s newest national champion barista takes on the world.

By Joanne Sasvari

It wasn’t his first try. He’d come close before, placing second in 2012. And 2011. And 2010. But this time, the soft-spoken, methodical Benjamin Put wowed the judges at the Canadian Barista Championships with a complex flavour analysis comparing high and low notes in coffee. “Because I was doing new things in each course, it captured the judges’ attention,” he says modestly.

Put, who’s been pulling espressos at Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters in Calgary for the last six years, is fascinated by the play of light, floral and citrusy high notes against rich, dark, spicy low ones. “Not just in coffee, but in many foods there is a spectrum of flavours, of high notes and low notes. And coffee represents both high and low notes. That’s what makes it such a complex beverage.”

And so he took the seven judges on a flavour journey that started with two different types of water and involved using a syringe to divide espresso into high and low components, adding ingredients to emphasize each. It was a fascinating study of how flavour works, and the judges were clearly intrigued.

Interestingly, although his employer offers an extensive training program, Put did much of the research on his own. In fact, most baristas in Canada are self-taught – it’s such a new profession here that little serious training is available.

“Lot of people in coffee, their story is they were doing something else at the time and just fell into coffee,” says Put. “I never thought of working in coffee as my job and career, but I just fell in love with it.”