The apparent coffee capital of the Australia and where the 2017 Australian International Coffee Awards, hosted by the Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria is held. This competition, held over 3 days, sees more than 800 different coffees entered from local roasters and more than 180 coffees from International roasters. The competition comprises of a few different categories, including milk-based, espresso, filter, cold brew and a few others. I was lucky enough to be invited to be a judge for this event and I took no time in accepting the invite. Melbourne, here I come!
The competition was run from the 8th to 10th of March, 2017 and saw a panel of highly qualified local and International judges tasting all those coffees on offer and scoring them. The milk-based category saw a whooping 300 entries and there was a huge panel of judges judging all the milk-based coffees and I was one of them. We had to judge the coffees on cut-through, flavour and aftertaste, with a total possible combined score of 60 points.
The day before the start of the competition, the judges spent the afternoon being taken through a calibration to make sure that we able to score the coffees correctly and that our tastebuds were aligned to each other’s. This ensured that discrepancies in scores were kept to a minimum if not, nothing at all. After calibration, we were ready to take on 3 days of coffee tasting and judging.
The first coffees arrived at our judging tables at 9am the following morning. There were 5 panels of judges judging the milk-based category, each panel consisting of 2 judges judging the same flight of coffees. Each panel of judges had around 20-24 coffees a day to go through each day. We split the 24 coffees into two sessions, one in the morning and one after lunch in the afternoon. This helped us stay fresh and hopefully not get fatigued. We also had palette cleansers like table water crackers and slices of green apples to freshen up our tastebuds when we felt our tastebuds getting tired. This would go on for the next 2 days in our quest to find the top coffees out of the 300 entries sent in.
The aim of this competition is not just to find the best coffees in Australia but to also encourage the roasters that don’t do so well to keep improving. Each coffee scored receives detailed comments about it, information which would help the roasters improve the quality of their coffee.
On the afternoon of the third and final day of judging, the top gold medal awards were then again judged and a champion coffee was chosen! Unfortunately for everyone, judges included, we will not know the results till 3 weeks later where the winners will be announced at an Awards Night at the start of the 2017 Melbourne International Coffee Expo.
All in all, I feel very honoured to have judged at this year’s Australian International Coffee Awards. It has been a fruitful and rewarding experience and I’ll definitely be back next year to judge again!
For the results of the competition…. Watch this space!!