Benjamin Put is the current Canadian Barista Champion - a title he has held since 2013. As champion, he is representing Canada at the World Barista Championships this year in Dublin, Ireland. Last year at World's he came in third place, so, needless to say, he is a pretty good barista. He is also a co-owner of Monogram Coffee in Calgary, and so a couple months ago I reached out to him asking if I could document his training regime before the competition.
PART I: CAPPUCCINOS
Our first session involved Ben experimenting with steaming milk for his cappuccinos and practicing latte art. Latte art is an easy way to gain points as it's very objective and as long as you practice, you should be able to earn full points. Ben used every single cappuccino cup available at the Monogram downtown and experimented steaming milk for all four drinks at once, rather than just steaming two at a time. A difficult feat to accomplish if you are striving to make each cappuccino consistent.
PART II: SIGNATURE DRINK TECHNIQUE
The theme for Ben's set is "risk". For his signature drink, he developed an entirely new process to make espresso. By creating custom-made water, sifting the grounds by hand, adding a calculated amount of malic acid, and combining all of the ingredients in a pressurized container rather than just using an espresso machine, Ben was able to make a very controlled, strong, and balanced espresso that could highlight his competition coffee's fruity flavour.
PART III: SIGNATURE COFFEE TASTING NOTES
A couple weeks before Ben was supposed to fly to Dublin, his competition coffee arrived in Calgary. The coffee was produced by Ninety Plus's Director of Profile Processing, Semeon Abay. Simeon took a small batch of peak harvest heirloom variety cherries and intentionally stacked the coffee in multiple layers rather than a single uniform layer, creating multiple styles and temperatures of fermentation in the bed of coffee. Though risky, this resulted in amazing complexity in the coffee. It also slowed down the drying to over 35 days, and the extended contact time with the coffee gave it amazing tropical fruit flavour and intense sweetness. To highlight the fruity profile of the coffee, Ben selected a few key fruits to go along with his signature drink. These fruits included jackfruit, granadilla, and mango.
PART IV: SIGNATURE DRINK BLENDING
After dialling in the coffee, it was all about mixing the espresso with the fruits selected to highlight the signature drink. I am awful and discerning different tastes in coffee and everything (my reviews are usually: It's good!; or, It's bad!) but - his espresso was good! And I hate drinking espresso straight when it's made by an espresso machine. Ben also discovered a new way of making his cappuccinos - by steaming them at a cooler temperature, a banana note came out. That single cappuccino has ruined all other cappuccinos for me.
PART V: PRACTICE SET
A couple days before he was set to leave for Dublin, Ben ran a practice set at National Cappuccino for me to document. My friend Rocky, a hardcore coffee aficionado, acted as a pretend judge. In fifteen minutes, Ben created four espressos, four cappuccinos, and four signature drinks. All while calmly describing the entire process. It's always amazing to watch a master at work.
PART VI: DEPARTURE
I met Ben, Jeremy, and Karine at the airport to see them off. Jeremy managed to coax the Air Canada employees to allow his checked overweight luggage (it was only overweight by five pounds). Ben was in good spirits despite being assigned the middle seat. And just like that, our time was over. All the preparation, all the long nights, all the hard work ... all of it comes down to a fifteen minute set in Dublin, Ireland.
- FIN -