Second-seeded #ASCATop12 Cup Taster Lloyd Thom of Campos Coffee shares how experience on both sides of the bench prepared him for competition.
When did you begin competing in ASCA championships?
I first competed 10 years ago in the NSW Barista competition. I’ve competed in Barista, Brewers, Cup Tasters and also judged.
What inspired you to take part?
I was inspired by the incredible stories behind individual coffees. Competition provided the perfect platform to dive deep and be entirely absorbed in every aspect and share these. The opportunities to develop knowledge and skills as well as connect within the industry was also really appealing.
What were some of the challenges you faced in the beginning?
I went into my first competition completely solo. Having a team and even a mentor is really important, especially if you’re starting from zero. Without that guidance my preparation and practice lacked direction and the first competition turned out to be literally a sweaty mess.
How were these overcome?
I spent the next few years as a judge which gave me a much greater insight in to how a competitor needs to target and frame their routine. It’s all very romantic and fun to stand up and tell stories about which you’re personally passionate and make drinks you think are delicious but at the end of the day it is a competition so you need to understand the rules, target your audience of judges and not restrict yourself (too much) with sentimental attachment when selecting your coffees.
What is it about your main field of competition (ie. Barista/Brewers/Latte Art/Cup Tasters/Roasting) that made you choose it over the others?
It was natural to compete in Barista and Brewers while working as a Barista and Trainer but now as a Green Bean Buyer and with cupping a daily part of my routine, it felt like a natural transition to focus on Cup Tasters. I love intensity and laser focused mindset it puts you in for those brief few minutes and the reveal is always exciting.
What have you learnt about coffee through competing?
Competition gave me both a broad and also very specific insight into the great interconnectivity of coffee. Combining fields of biology, chemistry, engineering and sensory science, the level of gained theoretical knowledge backed up by practical experience feels like a coffee version of a PhD.
But above all, it infinitely adds to an appreciation of the human connectivity of coffee. From producers, exporters, roasters and of course, your all-important competition team, great success in coffee and certainly in competition is 100% a team effort.
How has it impacted your career?
Competitions have been a regular source of motivation and connection. Whether competing, judging or spectating, I always walk away with a heightened energy to improve my craft.
What is your best memory from competing in coffee championships?
My early entries to Barista and Brewers were incredibly enriching and certainly felt like an achievement, especially to have presented stories and coffees that were special to me. It was great to share the moment with the producer afterwards. At the same time, it’s hard to beat the first time you make it to the #ASCATop12.
What are some of the easy mistakes you’ve made early in your competition journey?
Where do I start? My first competition and the lead up to it should be in the book for what not to do. Didn’t really practice my set up time instead spending more time on an overly elaborate signature drink. Didn’t properly read the rules and instead dreamt up exotic tasting notes for my espresso, didn’t think about where I was getting my table water for the judges… I could go on but essentially just not enough research or practice.
What advice would you give others thinking about competing?
Judging is a great place to start and get familiar with the format and to know how to frame your routine with the experience of the judge in mind. Otherwise, make sure you’ve got a great team with you, an experienced mentor to guide you and lots of time for practice.