Tag Archives: prairie regional barista championship

An Interview with Colton Rempel

There is no doubt that the coffee scene in Manitoba is experiencing a growth spurt.Colton_Jonnys_Java
There are a good handful of great shops already supporting the ever-growing specialty coffee customer and more popping up all the time. 

It was a real pleasure to host the Prairie Regional Barista Championships (PRBC) in Winnipeg this year and is another way Jonny’s Java has proved to be a mover in the Canadian coffee scene.
Andy Wiebe and Megan Hiebert of Jonny’s, as well as Vanessa Stachiw of Little Sister Coffee are to thank for bringing the PRBC to Manitoba this year. 

We’ve had staff at Jonny’s representing at the PRBC for a few years now but we’ve never had a competitor as our own until this year. We are very excited and so so proud of Colton for stepping up and taking on the challenge to compete at this years competition. 
Colton and I are thousands of kilometres away from each other at the moment but we were able to align a phone meeting this week and I wanted to ask him a bit of how he felt the competition went as well as advice for people who are looking to compete for the first time. 

Enter Colton

So Colton, what was the progression from working bar at the cafe to competing this year at PRBC?
Well as you know I’ve been following coffee for a while and last year I volunteered at the National Barista Championships to get a bit more hands on and experience of that area and this year I decided to throw my hat in and try it out.

What do you think was the biggest surprise going from spectator to competitor?
It is a lot more demanding than I could have imagined. There are so many things to learn and the more time you can take to prepare the better. You’ll encounter a lot of hiccups. 

Can you tell us some hiccups you experienced in prep and in comp?
Learning the rules and structure is time-consuming and coming up with a theme and a fluid flow was very difficult to do. I was pretty sure of the coffee I wanted to use, but to build a signature drink and theme around it was tough. As far as in competition goes; I’ve never competed before so there were so many things I did not know! haha. I didn’t understand what the prep time and was for before my routine, so I didn’t pull any practice shots or anything, then when actual performance time came, my dose was a little off and had to do some purging, put they worked out after that haha. That messed my routine up a bit though. I also got a little freaked out that I was running out of time, so I called “time” with about a minute left and hadn’t cleaned my work station or properly served my signature beverage. 

What was your routine about?
My routine was about showcasing the up-and-coming coffee scene in Mexico and how it related to Manitoba. Manitoba’s coffee scene is booming uncontrollably and Mexican coffees are getting better and better all the time, it is really impressive how far their attention to quality has come. 

What was your favourite part about the weekend aside from competing?
Probably the tasting session that was facilitated by Josh Hockin from Transcend Coffee in Edmonton.  He talked about tasting coffee varietals and regions. This kind of has to do with competing but my most favourite part was reprising Other Brother Coffee Roasters (OBR). OBR is a fairly new coffee roasters in Manitoba and in all honesty I had my doubts about using their coffee but it was amazing! Not only was the coffee great but the support from them was equally as incredible. Sam, one of the owners, would text me almost daily to see how the coffee was settling and how they could improve it for next batch. Getting to work with Sam was really humbling and all the support I got from OBR was overwhelming. 

So what’s next in coffee for you?
I just took on a management position and will be helping to open a new cafe in Winnipeg called Brothers Doughnuts. I’ll be running their coffee program there and I’m really excited about learning more about the business side of coffee. In the future I’d like to get into roasting as well. 

What’s next for you unrelated to coffee?
Well finding a place to live in Winnipeg is next. Adjusting to new life, work and circle of friends is a transition that will take some time. Being able to work in coffee is a safe place for me, it’s a comfortable place, because even if I’m hundred miles from home, I’m still at home making coffee. 

Any last words?
I can’t stress enough how much Andy and Megan’s support meant to me, they were so valuable. They are the reason I believe I did as well as I did, pretty much everything that I could have done better was my fault. Andy and Megan are both great judges and teachers, so every time I’d have a bar shift with Andy, he’d be watching my tamping, grooming and fall times, constantly encouraging me and pointing out things I could improve on.

Also… Andreas Adams is a great beatboxer! Colton_Jonnys_Java




Interview w/ Jeremy Ho – 2012 Canadian Barista Champion

Jeremy Ho, a longtime baristas at Phil & Sebastian in Calgary took 1st place in the Canadian Jeremy nationalsNational Barista Championship which makes him the first Calgarian to represent Canada on the world stage in Melbourne, Australia for the World Barista Championships where he took 9th place.

I recently had the pleasure to chat with Jeremy about competition and leadership.

First off, congratulations again on winning the national championship and the 9th place finish at worlds!
It has been a few years since Canada has cracked top 10 hasn’t it?
It was 2010 since Canada cracked the top 10 with a 7th place finish by Kyle Straw.

It was great to see you perform live both at regionals and nationals. Can you explain how your approach to the “ring” differs from the first two competitions to the world stage?
My approach when I am prepping backstage, rolling out the cart, and getting into the competition area actually was no different between each stage. I try to prepare as much of my wares, cart, signature drink ingredients etc. as much time in advance in order to not be rushed and to be calm when I roll out. I usually avail of my team, delegate tasks to be done to people whom you trust to ensure that you are able to get all aspects of your cart prepared properly and in advance. A helpful tip is to grab a cart as soon as you can. From there, I usually listen to a bit of music to pump myself up, perhaps go through some of my opening lines, and get extremely focused and very pumped up. I also stay very positive throughout this process (which all changes after I compete, haha), to keep the great energy up and to lower EVERYONE’s stress. It’s important to go into the actual competition time feeling as confident as possible, but to be relaxed and focused enough to be able to respond to changes. Say a prayer, roll out and execute!

In terms of preparing the actual routine, we learned firsthand at how all encompassing a world stage routine must be. It was miles ahead what any of us had presented at any stage – in/house, regionals or nationals. We also saw how important preparation and organization was, as well as preparing for technical differences depending on where you go.

But my approach to competitions has always stayed the same. Using a competitor’s fire, I always pick a coffee that I am truly passionate about, and try to present it in a way that moves the industry forward, is approachable to all, and is a little outside of the box.

Ben Put has been a huge support system as a coach, friend and co-worker, how has Ben added value to you as a barista and a competitor?
Ben has been absolutely integral to my success in the coffee industry in general, never mind competitions. He is the epitome of coffee professional and innovator. I have learned a lot working alongside Ben and am constantly amazed at his “barista intuition”, his humility, knowledge and technique. He pushes me to be better everyday, and thus we work extremely well together. As he has said before, iron sharpens iron.

He also has always been a role model for competitions for me. The amount of investment of time and energy was something I learned was necessary to be successful. He works harder than anybody and is always rewarded with success, which is no surprise given his talent level. We trained very hard together, experimented together and to have his energy focused on my routine was such a great gift.jeremy perform

On the subject of support, I have never seen a company so invested in their people as Phil & Sebastian. Phil was actually weeping at the National competition when you took 1st place and Ben 2nd! How has intentional and proactive leaders (such as Phil and Seb) influenced your career?
It is so important to have owners that invest in and believe in competition, as well as your own individual skills. They have always provided an incredible atmosphere of pursuit, innovation and passion that has fit so well for me and have contributed greatly to what I have learned.

Being intentional and proactive are great traits to learn from, as P&S projects, experiments, and directions are always purposeful and deliberate. Being proactive was another trait that I learned is integral to self-directed learning which I think is key for baristas to continuously learn and be successful in the industry. They also work extremely hard, are very smart, practical, insightful, and humble. These are intentional traits that are key to being successful and I am glad to have seen that in them.

We are constantly evolving our employee relationships and we are in the works of even documenting and clearly outlining paths where baristas can succeed in our company, which is another great example in which P&S are investing in their staff.

What was the range of emotions from after winning nationals to realizing you’ve got the world competition ahead of you?
Nationals were an incredible feeling as I was so happy for our company to be able to give them such a great result for all the hard work they put towards my routine. Finishing 1-2 was a goal that Ben and I set together, and we were ecstatic with the outcome. There was a little bittersweet as we were all rooting for Ben to win as well (given his history). Just shows you how much of a team we are. However, I believe we have a stronger team this year, and insight from worlds was invaluable for him and I cannot wait to see what he does this year.

I was never really that nervous to compete on behalf of Canada on the world stage. I saw it as a huge honor, and was very excited and thrilled to be able to represent the amazing Canadian coffee community at the world stage. When I arrived in Melbourne, and first step foot in the competition arena and grandstands, they had all the national flags displayed in the rafters. I felt very proud and pumped when I saw the Canadian flag, and it dawned that I had a great opportunity. I wanted to bring the spotlight back to Canada.

So you obviously love Ethiopian coffees, you have used them at all your competitions this year and if I remember correctly it was also what got you really into coffee in the first place. Can you tell us what it was about the Duromina cooperative you used in worlds that made you shelf the Koke region you were using at nationals?
I look for a couple things when choosing a coffee to use for competitions: taste (first and foremost) and story. A coffee purchased with a lack of transparency or traceability usually means there is little to no story involved. Coffees that have development projects, are purchased via relationship with the producers or are from partners of ours over many years usually have incredible stories that help explain why the coffee tastes so good. The Koke we had was an excellent tasting coffee, but because it was purchased through the ECX, had very little information on it. Because part of our competition philosophy is to share unique information about coffee so people can be engaged and learn, we knew we had to get a more traceable coffee from Ethiopia. During our green buying trip in February we visited a number of cooperatives that had been working with Technoserve, a developmental organization that provides business and agronomy advice to farmers, and has been instrumental in developing wet mills in West Ethiopia. When we visited and heard about Duromina’s incredible story, we knew it would be amazing to use it at Worlds. Tasting the coffee only confirmed that it was a World Barista Championship caliber coffee.

What’s next for you in the coffee world?
Lots of very cool things happening for us in the cafe. I will be taking on a more involved role at P&S, hopefully focusing on more R&D, and developing lots of events and customer experience and knowledge type work. Who knows, maybe another competition is in the works too 😉 …

What is the biggest impact or change you’d like to have made in the coffee industry through your career?
I want to bring Canadian coffee in the global spotlight and have people view us as a thriving community where coffee innovation and quality experiences exist. I want to inspire new baristas and people and raise their expectations as to what coffee can be. I want to be involved in helping people discover what we love so much about coffee, world wide. I would like to also help move forward the cafe experience and interaction component of coffee, especially in the Canadian context.

What’s your next goal to accomplish totally unrelated to coffee?
Finish my MSc in Population and Public Health, and to get my paper published in a peer-reviewed journal.

I know there have been so many people that have had their fingerprint on getting you to where you are, any shout outs you’d like to make?
Obviously everyone at P&S, from Cafe to roasterie staff and everyone in between for their support. Everyone cheering me on in the Canadian coffee scene. My close friends, family and loved ones for supporting me during competition. And thank God for the opportunity given.

To Find out more about Jeremy you can follow him on twitter and instagram: @OhYmerej
and his blog here.