South Africa’s Barista Champion oozes passion and a zest for life and not only about coffee and coffee beans but also about living life to the full.
A coffee date with Winston Thomas, 26 from Strand is like an education in coffee but also re-energises you to stay alert to the complex flavours in your coffee.
Thomas’ route to the title of Champion Barista started when he was studying Civil Engineering at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology and would pound the pavements in search of a good cuppa java.
“I think most people’s starting point is wanting to upgrade from instant coffee to coffee you’ll get at a coffee shop,” he says.
Thomas adds: “So when I was a first year student I would explore the city and go coffee shop hopping and when I had my first great cup of coffee I remember thinking: “WOW! I don’t have to add sugar to this.”
Despite his coffee curiosity, Thomas finished his Civil Engineering studies, something he says made his mother happy and at the very first opportunity he made every effort to become a barista.
“I had a bucket list and I wanted to tick things off, doing a barista course was on the list,” says Thomas.
“I remember it so clearly because I had my last exam and then I came to Origin afterwards for a cup of coffee and the waitress recognised me from the course that I did. She mentioned that there was a position for a barista and that I should apply,” he adds.
The rest was history, he started working at the coffee shop in De Waterkant, Green Point but he also had a goal in mind.
“I wanted to enter the Barista Champs and the first time I did, I won the Aeropress Competition and got the opportunity to travel with the SA Barista Champion to the World Champs in Dublin.”
It was there that Thomas was inspired by the best of the best in the world to really set the bar higher and become a better barista.
On the global stage, it appears to be a case of the competitor with the most money in their pocket can get the best and rarest beans and by virtue of that produce the best coffee.
But for Thomas, talent and a love for the beans are still an important factor as he prepares to take on the best of the best.
“I’ve only ever used African beans when I compete and this is important because both African barista’s and African beans need to be put on a stronger stage,” he says.
“I’m also passionate about making coffee with the consumer in mind. So if I use rare and expensive beans, the majority of coffee lovers would never get to taste it,” he adds.
Thomas says it’s now full steam ahead for the World Barista Championship which takes place in Seoul from 9-12 November 2017.