What makes an Aussie (and world) champion? We asked 2015 Australian and World Barista Champion, Sasa Sestic, for his advice.

What inspired you to join the coffee industry?
I have always loved hospitality and always knew that I would do something in this area. When I did a barista training course at the Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT), I found the process of making coffee fascinating. I decided to look for a job in the industry and started working as a barista in the local bakery. Since then, I’ve kept learning as much as possible about coffee – I’m still learning today!

How did you become involved in ASCA competitions?
I watched a video from Paul Batter of Living Coffee and that opened my mind to the possibility of competing. Back in 2007 I went to watch the NSW Regional Championship (now the Central Region Championship) and saw Scotty Callaghan competing. His passion, professionalism and dedication to the craft just blew me away. I was instantly inspired to start competing. It was the start of the most challenging and rewarding chapter in my coffee career.

What advice would you give to someone looking to start competing, or to improve their routine?
When you first start competing I would definitely suggest that you go into it with the mindset that you’re there to learn, not to win. In fact, this should apply to all competitors, including experienced ones!

For new competitors, your goal  should be to learn as much as you can, and to network with other coffee professionals. I have learned so much about competing and the competitions by talking to other competitors and judges. Most importantly, you need to know your WHY for competing. The further you go in your competition journey, the more important this will become – you’ll find it deep inside of you, all you have to do then is action it.

It’s also important to treat everyone with respect – your team, the judges, other competitors, and especially volunteers. Of course, you should also have fun and enjoy the process!

How has becoming an ASCA Australian Coffee Champion impacted on your career?
When I won the ASCA Australian Barista Championship, it was of course an unbelievable feeling! However, I only had four weeks until the World Barista Championship (WBC) so I celebrated for the day and then kept practicing.

Now when I look back, winning the Australian Barista Championship meant I got to be surrounded by the world’s best baristas at the WBC. In my experience, the rest of the world really respects the Australian Championship and this is definitely a credit to the professionalism, expertise and dedication of the ASCA Board, judges, competitors and the entire ASCA community.

After the WBC my life, and the lives of many of us at ONA Coffee, has completely changed.

Many new doors containing great opportunities opened for us, and we decided to take all the ones that aligned with our company values and culture. Without the ASCA Australian Coffee Championships, the entire ONA Coffee and Project Origin teams would not be what they are today.

How has your competition journey changed over the years?
I’m still heavily involved in the Barista Championship as a coach with competitors in both Australia and overseas. I enjoy knowing that I can pass on my experience and knowledge to future coffee ambassadors and continuing to be involved in the competitions pushes me to keep learning and innovating.