The most prestigious coffee competition of the year, the World Barista Championship just finished this afternoon, 23rd June, by crowning the first ever female Barista Champion of the world. The winner, Agnieszka Rojewska, was announced after four days of competitions: two days of preliminary rounds, a day of semifinals, and a final day of top six competition presentations.

Dale Harris, the 2017 World Barista Champion, hugging Agnieszka Rojewska, the winner of 2018 World Barista Championship

We were so excited and happy for all the European baristas on the world stage, but especially for those who got into the final rounds. We had four representatives from European countries in the mix, together with the champions of New Zealand and Canada.

During the four days, live scores were shown to the public. In retrospective, some of the finalists were among the best since the first, preliminary, round. Mathieu Theis from Switzerland was in the total lead on Thursday, and Agnieszka Rojewska, the Polish Champion, was in the second place. In the finals, there were Lex Wenneker of the Netherlands, Greece’s Michalis Katsiavos, John Gordon (New Zealand), and Cole Torode (Canada) with them.

John Gordon (NZ), Michalis Katsiavos (Greece), Lex Wenneker (the Netherlands), Agnieszka Rojewska (Poland), Mathieu Theis (Switzerland) and Cole Torode (Canada)

Incredible performances of the finalists

We saw wonderful interpretations of the updated WBC rules in each presentation, throughout the whole competition, but the finalists’ runs could not be more unique. Uniformly, we saw a great use of space on the judges' tables, as well as below them, but most specifically, the use of the tables themselves. The competitors intentionally used the tables to set a specific mood, or for them to serve a specific purpose. Not only would they reorganise the positions of the tables as they wanted them, in regards to the coffee machine and the work tables, they even moved the judges around, delivering truly a unique experience.

We witnessed two geishas from Panama, a Costa Rican caturra and red catuai, two Ethiopian coffees, and even a blend of geisha and cidra varieties used in the finals. The level of machinery and tools were incredible, with, of course, the main sponsors on stage, Victoria Arduino Black Eagle, as well as Mahlkoening’s EK43s and Peak grinders, but also in regards to the equipment brought by the champions. From Push tampers and distribution tools, to scale and scale stands, the level of professionalism was extremely high.

Every competitor had a strong message to deliver and would deserve a page written in their own right, but we recommend you see it for yourselves. It is quite amazing to see the result of the months worth of training and repeated practice culminate in those 15-minute routines. Those were polished to the slightest details, with innovation, study and research going into them. Please, do yourselves a favour and watch those finalists rock the stage.

European finalists of 2018 World Barista Championship

As we watched all the competitors battle for their spot in the semifinals, eventually leaving a spot for only six best of the best, we happily realised: “There are four champions from Europe!” In the semifinals already, the presence was high, with seven out of sixteen competitors representing European countries. And then, this year proved to be a strong one for our representatives who did not leave any space for any of the Asian countries or the United State’s champion. They took the world’s finals by a storm.

In the announcement of the finalists, first, the sixth (New Zealand) and the fifth (Canada) places were announced, making it pretty clear that the four best baristas of 2018 are ‘ours'. We were already thrilled with the results, but the placement was yet to be announced for Greece, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Poland. We could not be more excited!

Grand finale crowning the first female Barista Champion of the World

Agnieszka Rojewska is a competition beast. Not only is she a seasoned competitor, having won the Coffee Master title already this year, she has yet another championship category—the one of latte art— lined up for her in a few days. Agnieszka is also the first female to have ever won in the Barista category. And that is a wonderful achievement and a great message she is sending for all the baristas. You can do it! She did it for sure.

2018 World Barista Champion Agnieszka Rojewska

Agnieszka built her presentation for the judges around the relationship she builds with her customers, introducing them to the world of speciality coffee step-by-step.

She starts in a gentle way, with a milk beverage. She presents the customers, here the judges, with a very special coffee for her, the first one she has ever fallen in love with. And she does not overwhelm them with details about the varietal and other specifics at all. Instead, she serves them a drink with notes of milk chocolate and a warm strawberry jam, letting them fall in love with it, too.

For her milk course, she used espresso brewed with 20g in and 36g of beverage out. The total volume of the beverage was 3.5 oz, resulting in a balance, creamy, rich cup.

Her coffee was an Ethiopian heirloom variety, grown in an area relatively fresh to coffee growing. The trees are only ten years old, and the soil is fresh, hence rich in nutrients. The coffee was processed through carbonic maceration, which gave it its intense yellow-fruit characteristics.

The espressos, brewed with 20g in and 45g out were described to have medium sweetness, medium acidity and medium bitterness. In flavours, the stand-outs were orange, plum, and peach, with a velvety mouthfeel that transformed into silky, and an aftertaste of orange blossom.

The signature drink, which was sounded as appetising as the espresso course, was prepared with the addition of e.g. passionfruit and coconut syrup. Lactic bacteria, found also in the processing of the coffee, was used to process the milk that Agnieszka used in her recipe. The milk was washed this way, leaving only a clear liquid that delivered a rich and creamy mouthfeel to the drink. There was also a rooibos infusion, and six espressos, brewed as 20g in and 35g out, with tropical notes found in the cup.

And the tasting notes? Passionfruit, apricot, caramel on the second sip, creamy texture, and apricot pulp on the third sip.

We are really happy for Agnieszka, who is a hard-working barista, a great ambassador for the speciality coffee in the world, and cannot wait to see where will the next twelve months of reign take her.

photos: Courtesy of World Coffee Events