Southern Region Barista Champion and 2020 #ASCATop12 member Anthony Douglas reveals how competitions have helped him along his coffee journey.

When did you begin competing in ASCA championships?
I started competing in 2014.

What inspired you to take part?
The previous year, Axil Coffee Roasters had 6 people compete and seeing all the hard work they were putting in to improve their craft really inspired me. I kicked myself for not taking part that year, but the following year, I decided to begin competing as a way to improve my coffee making and knowledge, confidence, as well as network with other people in the industry.

What were some of the challenges you faced in the beginning?
The biggest challenge I faced was realizing how little I knew about coffee, and going through the humbling process of developing my knowledge and refining my technique.

How were these overcome?
I’ve been very fortunate to work with some exceptional baristas and I’ve had a number of mentors who have been very generous with their knowledge over the years. Ultimately, it came down to a lot of late nights and early mornings in the training room, exploring all facets of my coffee making, and maintaining to this day an “empty cup” mentality.

What is it about your main field of competition that made you choose it over the others?
When I started competing I was working as a barista, and espresso based drinks were what I spent the majority of my time making. Competing in Barista competitions has directly correlated to me making better coffee behind the bar, in turn serving better coffee to my customers. Being able to share amazing coffee experiences has always been the biggest motivating factor.

What have you learnt about coffee through competing?
I’ve learnt how much of a rabbit hole it is, and I’ve certainly developed a greater appreciation for all the variables involved in all levels of the chain to produce an outstanding cup.

How has it impacted your career?
It’s an incredible platform that has allowed me to improve my skills, travel to different parts of the world, meet and work with some of the best and brightest people in the industry.

What is your best memory from competing in coffee championships?
There’s so many to choose fromm but I’d have to say it was in 2018 when I placed second in Australia. So much goes into preparing for competition, and it’s a great feeling when you know you’ve worked hard and you’re able to share the stage amongst people you respect in the industry.

What are some of the easy mistakes you’ve made early in your competition journey?
I once clunked my group handle as I was locking it in, and made the bigger mistake of not remaking it, costing me a lot of points. One year, forgetting all my cups and vessels, which were luckily on the trolley behind me (which I now make sure is empty when setting up).

What advice would you give others thinking about competing?
Just do it. If you don’t think you’re ready, there’s even more reason to. It will only make you a better coffee professional. You don’t need to spend a lot of money, or the support of a large company behind you. Sure these things help, but at the end of the day, you’re ticking boxes on a scoresheet. Learn the scoresheet back to front and understand what the judges are looking for. Seek advice from people who have done well and you’d be surprised how far you can get with a bit of hard work.

Is there anything you’d like to add?
Just a big thank you to everyone involved in making these competitions happen. A lot of the work and effort is voluntary, and I sincerely appreciate that I’m able to compete and be a part of the community involved.