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Serious business at the barista championships

In the world of the professional barista, there is no such thing as “just a cup of coffee.”

By Joanne Sasvari

Just ask the hyper-focused competitors in the Canadian Barista Championships, held each year at the Canadian Coffee & Tea Show.

“How many ways can you serve a cup of coffee?” muses Benjamin Put, “director of coffee control” at Calgary’s popular Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters. “After all, it’s brown, it’s hot and it’s in a cup.”

Turns out, there are a quite a few ways to add creativity to that cup of joe, and Put’s the guy to do it. In October, he won the national championships in Vancouver, and next June will be heading to Rimini, Italy, to compete in the World Barista Championship.

In Vancouver, Put joined second place winner Cole Torode of Calgary’s Rosso Coffee, third place Keaton Ritchie of Montreal’s Café Myriade, and a dozen other baristas in steaming, pouring, foaming, crafting and explaining everything to do with the bean that gets most of us going in the morning. They each had 15 minutes to make four espressos, followed by four cappuccinos and then four versions of a signature drink, to be evaluated by a team of seven judges.

“You get scored by these seven judges, not only based on how good your drink is, but can you convey an idea about coffee?” Put says. That “idea” could be almost anything, because there are so many aspects to coffee – and just as many different types of people who follow it as a career.

“There’s so many challenges to it, from where you’re farming coffee to roasting and brewing it,” Put says. “And there’s something for everyone.” For instance, he says, social types might enjoy the social banter of working with customers, while creative ones might prefer the fun of crafting the perfect cup and analytical personalities may spend more time understanding the complexities of coffee.

“There are definitely lots of different personalities,” Put says. “At the high levels, they are committed to coffee generally. It’s competitive for sure, but there’s no bad blood between competitors. There’s a lot of camaraderie.”

NAME: Benjamin Put

AGE: 27

TITLE: Director of Coffee Quality


Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters
#23 – 2701 16th Street SE Calgary
2043 33rd Avenue SW Calgary
#1159 – 6455 Macleod Trail S Calgary