Competitions are often heated, but Sunday’s 2012 Cambodia Barista Championship saw the temperature hit 100 degrees Celsius at Gloria Jean’s Coffee in Phnom Penh.
At the Canadia Tower, the coffee chain’s best barista was crowned after a contest that saw 10 staff given 15 minutes to create four sets of drinks, including their own signature drink, before the judges and an audience.
“For nearly all of our baristas this is the first time they’ve taken part in a competition,” said Gloria Jean’s general manager, Anne Guerineau, to the crowd that had gathered to watch in anticipation as their favourite coffee slingers plied their trade.
All smiles at his success and unexpected win, Puthy Meng who has worked at Gloria Jean’s Boeung Keng Kang 1 location on Street 51, said he could hardly be prouder to win the second competition he has ever entered. “It surprised me actually. I did much better than the previous one.”
Without the tattoos and consummate surliness that has come to be expected from baristas in America’s Portland, Seattle and San Francisco, Cambodia’s coffee purveyors worked with a smile as they were put through their paces.
In an effort to highlight the skills of each barista, the competitors were put through a bevy of tasks in their quest for first place, including cleaning their station, presentation and taste.
The judges were also watching the baristas’ technical expertise at pulling a shot and shaping the milk foam, presenting the judges with cappuccinos decorated with flowers and other assorted designs.
Aside from being a barista for two years and pouring his heart into every cup of coffee, Puthy said training with his manager made all the difference. “I was more confident this time. More comfortable.”
It wasn’t just training that secured Puthy a win by one point, but his signature Ice Vanilla Latte, which he said he adjusted for the foreign judges as “they don’t like their coffee too sweet”. So he only put in “one and a half pumps of vanilla syrup” rather than two.
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