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Her Coffee: Sasa, your local World Champion barista

Tess Parisotto

It was a moment we burst with pride and cried out in joy; a moment now crystallised in the minds of Canberra coffee lovers which we knew would change the way people perceived our city, and our coffee forever. It was the moment when Canberra’s very own Sasa Sestic, director and founder of Ona Coffee, was crowned the World’s Best Barista. And now it’s official – Canberra has the best coffee in the world!

 

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After becoming the Australian Barista Champion back in March, Sasa went on to compete against 51 other national champion competitors from around the world, in the hopes of being crowned the World’s Best Barista. The competition took place in Seattle over the course of four days. Competitors were required to make four espressos, four cappuccinos and four signature drinks in the space of 15 minutes. They were judged meticulously on a range of things; the taste of coffee served, cleanliness of their workspace, creativity and originality, technical skill and overall presentation.

To meet these requirements successfully is a difficult task for any barista (just the rulebook itself is a 24-page document!) but – watching the competition via live streaming – Sasa made it seem effortless in his routine. He breezed through every pour and spoke coolly to the judges about what he was preparing. He was so relaxed, so calm and collected; you almost forgot how difficult it must have been. Sasa says being in front of an audience actually calms his nerves and makes it easier for him to compete.

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More than well-prepared and focused, the amount of time and dedication Sasa put into preparing for the World Barista Championships (WBC) is actually kind of astounding. But a disciplined training regime isn’t foreign to Sasa, having represented Australia 15 years ago at the Sydney Olympic Games in handball.

For the last four months training for the WBC has been Sasa’s full-time job and he spent between 10 to 15 hours a day training.

“If anyone wanted to talk to me about anything that wasn’t related to the comp, I didn’t want to hear about it,” he confesses. “I actually lost just under 9 kilos while I was [training].”

A glance down at his hands showed that even his wedding band was slipping off, he had lost so much weight.

“I don’t think it was stress, because I wasn’t really [stressed out] when I was training. I was just enjoying myself so much I forgot to eat.”

To Sasa, time spent training—no matter how long—never bothered him as long as he was enjoying himself and got good results.

As a truly passionate advocate for the specialty coffee industry, Sasa hopes to use his new title as a way to bring the industry forward. He wants to run coffee education courses and seminars for baristas in training.

Sasa plans to meet with coffee producers around the world and discuss how they can employ better production programs for their coffee. He will also help to train their local baristas and roasters to ensure a cohesive, educated and passionate coffee producing community in all aspects.

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“I want to inspire them the best way that I can,” Sasa says, passionately.

Sasa also plans to conduct more charity work in coffee producing countries.

“I’m very involved with coffee farming worldwide, [and love doing] charity work & helping communities in our producing countries. This title means I can do more of that” Sasa says. Sasa has already begun the Project Origin charity – a testament to his passion and commitment to this kind of charity work. He hopes to expand the charity’s reach further on a global scale with the help of past World Barista Champion, Hidenori Izaki, who wants to take Project Origin to China, Japan and New Zealand.

Not only will Sasa be travelling the world changing the face of the specialty coffee industry, he has big plans back at home for little old Canberra.

Ona Coffee House in Fyshwick will be renovated in the coming months to make way for a “new relaxing experience for customers” and a more “fun, organised and professional” environment. There’s also a new coffee roaster on the way from Germany, and Sasa went to great lengths to ensure he was getting the absolute best of the best, so we are guaranteed top-notch coffee. After the refurbishment, Sasa plans to start a training academy for aspiring baristas at the Fyshwick location and employ other coffee professionals from around the country and the world to teach classes.

What you won’t see as a result of Sasa’s newfound World’s Best Barista status, is a string of new Ona establishments popping up.

Sasa says, “It is my mission to make Ona a stronger brand, not necessarily bigger…We want to be selective, and work with people who are as proud about our product as much as we are. [And] we don’t want to saturate the market – it’s good to have that diversity [of coffee in Canberra] and we just want to focus on the quality.”

So Ona will more or less stay the same for Canberra, happy in its three locations — Manuka, Fyshwick and their specialty coffee house — The Cupping Room in Civic. Although, you may see an Ona Coffee House pop up in Sydney in the coming months…stay tuned!

“I’ve always said that Ona belongs to Canberra…and we want to be as active as possible with the Canberra community to show our appreciation [for their support],” Sasa says.

Over the next few weeks, before he ventures off around the world to fulfil some official WBC duties, Sasa will be spending some time behind the bar at the Fyshwick Ona Coffee House. He’ll be featuring his award winning coffee and taking the time to speak with customers. He also wants to host another Coffee Story through Food and Wine event at The Cupping Room, as a way to give back to the community.

The World’s Best Barista is at your fingertips Canberra and he’s proud to be there.

I think I speak on behalf of all Canberra-coffee lovers when I say that we are proud too.

Sasa’s vision, determination and passion for good coffee have now single-handedly put Canberra on the map as the newest coffee capital of the world. Be sure to get down to Fyshwick and congratulate Sasa, but not only that – thank him, too. Without Sasa Sestic, Canberra’s coffee scene would not be what it is today.

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Tess Parisotto

Tess Parisotto is a 21 year old freelance writer and University student currently studying a Bachelor of Writing at the University of Canberra. Born and raised a Canberran, Tess loves her city and being a part of the Canberra community. She has a love for all things local, and is a self-confessed coffee nut, fiercely passionate about coffee and cafe culture in general. Follow @tessparisotto on Instagram for your daily dose of Canberra goodness and other pretty things. More about the Author

  • Liz Posmyk

    Absolutely fabulous for Sasa, Ona and the Canberra coffee scene!

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