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The 2017 South African AeroPress Championships, which was in it’s second year, was such a success that we’re all still buzzing, and thanks to excellent hosts Helene and Renato from EspressoLab we saw a great turnout and a enjoyed a fantastic atmosphere. It was coffee heaven, with coffee lovers, baristas and AeroPress devotees flocking to EspressoLab at The Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock, Cape Town. Seasoned baristas from Roasteries as far as Pretoria, mingled with aspiring amateurs to watch 18 competitors battling it out in elimination style – for a chance to partake in the World Barista Championships to be held in South Korea later this year. It’s a mingle of seriousness and fun, amidst nervous laughter from the competitors because let’s face it – the stakes are high. Who would not want to win this title and compete at a global level?

The judging panel this year brought an element of professionalism to this notoriously fun event. They are all seasoned experts in their field. Winston Thomas is the 2016 SA AeroPress Champion and the 2017 South African Barista Champion. Renato is a fine roaster and owner of EspressoLab, and Annemarie Robertson is the Top Chef South Africa Winner. With limited space, spectators crowded around to watch a series of intense heats, where competitors had eight minutes to brew their perfect cup, before presenting it before the judges.  The selection of the best cup is the best thing to watch. How it works is they each taste the brews prepared by the competitors without knowing whose cup is whose; and on the count of three they all point to the one they like the most. Hopefully they have unanimous decisions and if not they call in the services of a tie breaker judge. The cupping (tasting), as they call it; is a lovely thing to see. It’s as if they’re tasting things that us mortals can’t taste. It starts with the sharp slurp and follows with a mouthwash and then repeat.

The competitors had access to the very best equipment to brew. The MoreFlavour Company sponsored the brewing kits, comprising of:

The AeroPress
The Baratza Encore Grinder
The Brewista Variable Gooseneck Kettle
The Brewista SmartScale

What makes this competition so different to all other barista competitions in that it is judged solely on taste, and it’s not just baristas who can enter. The mix of contestants was interesting as there 7 independents/amateurs and 11 baristas representing roasters:

Rob Temlett – Independent
Khan Chang – Uncle Bear Coffee Company
Paolo Panicco – Independent
Michael Mac Donald – Origin
Stevo Kühn – Royal Roastery
Jean-Pierre Blignaut – Royal Roastery
Fanie Botes – Industrial Coffee Works
Steve Evans – Independent
Zakhele Dennis Sibanda – Origin
Timothy Porter – Independent
Cleo Alexander Pokpas – Uncle Bear Coffee
Dayle Visser – Tribe Coffee
Sa’ad Lahri – Independent
Chad Burton – Independent
Lydia Oyier – Espresso Lab
Ofatsa Kamandani – Espresso Lab
Blessing Mbvirwi – Espresso Lab
Shewaan Khan – Independent

Last year’s South African Aeropress Champion, and 2017 Judge, Winston Thomas said events like this are an excellent way to experience the coffee culture abroad. His journey with The MoreFlavour Co. to Dublin was inspiring, where he got to see the pros in action, meet new people, see new things and get a taste for the International coffee scene.

Uncle Bear Coffee’s Khan Chang was crowned 2017’s South African AeroPress Champion and will travel to Seoul in South Korea to compete in the World AeroPress Championships (November). Second place went to Paolo Panicco and third place to Timothy Porter, both Independents.

So what was Chang’s winning recipe and method about? We’ll need to keep this secret until he’s competed in Seoul, but we can say something about the exquisite coffee he used: Alirio Muñoz, Huila, Colombia, roasted by EspressoLab Microroasters.

A job very well done and a commendable feat to the sponsors this year, who have all contributed in so many ways. The MoreFlavour Co and sponsors managed to raise R20 0000 from product auctions – this is all going towards Khan’s trip. We made a surprise visit with Renato to Khan at his coffee shop – Uncle Bear Coffee – to hand over his cheque.


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