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Canberra’s Hugh Kelly Crowned Australian Barista Champion

April 2, 2016 Accolades No Comments Print Print Email Email

For the second year in a row the Australian Barista Championship title has been won by a Canberra barista.


Ona Coffee’s Hugh Kelly has taken out the 2016 ASCA Australian Barista Championship, following Company Director Sasa Sestic’s win in 2015.

Following the 2015 championship, Sasa went on to beat almost 50 countries in Seattle, United States to claim the World Barista Championship (WBC) title. This year, Hugh will make the journey to Dublin, Ireland in June to compete in the World Barista Championship.

“It would be amazing for Australian to win the WBC back to back. I can’t promise we’ll win again, but I can promise I’ll do my best,” Hugh said.

Eleven Open Heat competitors entered the competition at the Melbourne International Coffee Expo on Thursday 17 March. Six of them went through to take on the four Regional Competition winners on Friday 18 March, which included Hugh, who won the Central Region competition in September.

As part of the Australian Barista Championship, the Ona Coffee Head Trainer produced espresso coffees using a freezer-processed Castillo from El Mirador in Colombia. His milk-based beverage highlighted the same varietal in a different way, presenting distinct flavours of vanilla and blueberry. For his signature drinks, Hugh combined freeze-concentrated fresh black currant with ice stones and his Colombian coffee.

Hugh worked closely with his boss Sasa to prepare for the competition, which involved at least three months of writing and refining his presentation and then a solid four months of practising his routines for 8-12 hours a day.

“In competition there are always sticking points where you feel like you are not progressing; Sasa had that many times himself in his own campaign and having someone there who had been through the process was a huge help,” Hugh said.

“I’ve now had some great feedback from top quality judges in the Australian competition, so this has given me a few ideas to refine things (for the World Barista Championship). It’s great to now have more time to work with the coffees and try and get more out of them, and of course lots and lots of run-throughs.”

Hugh has seen Canberra’s coffee scene change drastically since he started making coffee and if proud of how Ona Coffee has influenced that change.

“People expect higher quality than other cities and I’m very proud of the role Ona has played in this,” he said. “In our shops like The Cupping Room there is now demand for single origin, reserve and filter coffees and people expect a choice of different blends. I believe we are heading in the right direction towards more refined and delicious products with guys like Barrio and others also helping make Canberra a coffee destination.”

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