It has been almost eight months since the 2017 Australian National Barista Championships, and over 15 months since the last World Barista Championship (WBC) that was held in Dublin, Ireland.

Present at both events was ONA Coffee’s Hugh Kelly, formerly Head Trainer and now a member of the Research and Development team. Hugh obtained 8th position at the WBC 2016 and has been the Australian Barista Champion for both 2016 and 2017.

Hugh’s performance at the 2017 national championships turned heads, as he presented coffees from completely different origins but grown in almost identical conditions and latitude. The highlight of the performance was his Signature Course, as Hugh crafted a drink using a fairy floss machine, dissolving the floss with espresso shots.

Now, with the WBC 2017 in Seoul less than three weeks away, Hugh is once again looking to turn heads and use the world stage to deliver his message. Training in ONA Coffee HQ and roastery in Canberra, he is excited to once again be part of the largest coffee event in the world.

“The [World Barista] Championship is a really good platform for baristas and coffee professionals across the world to come together and share ideas”, he said.

“It gives us an opportunity to share ideas and to extend the boundaries of how we make and interpret coffee.”

Despite all the long hours of individual training and research, Hugh insists that travelling to the WBC and competing is very much a team effort.

“Competitors definitely couldn’t reach the level that they do without the support of a strong team and industry friends to help.”

“I’m lucky enough to have people like Saša [Šestic], Sam [Corra], Angus [Mackie] and others who help me every day with my training, giving me feedback. We also always have a great support team when we travel, which helps with all the excess luggage!”

Hugh also says that the help of sponsors and industry partners makes all the difference when it comes to pushing boundaries and competing.

“The support I have been given is incredible,” he said. “Businesses such as Sanremo, Cloudcatcher Roastery, HX Cups, AMC, Breville, Bombora [Coffee and Water Supplies], Pesado, KeepCup and Samsonite have been so supportive and have really helped me through my training and preparation.”

“It is so nice to know that people in the industry in Australia are behind you. The support from the Australian Specialty Coffee Association (ASCA) has been great and we’ve had several visitors from interstate too, who have come to watch me practice and given feedback.”

With the competition so close, Hugh says that all he can do now is polish his routine and prepare himself as much as possible.

“It all comes down to what happens on the day,” he said. “I just have to make sure I am organised and prepare as much as I can.”

Despite the pressure, Hugh is excited to be back on stage.

“There’s nothing quite like it,” he said. “I can’t wait to be back out on stage, sharing my ideas and preparing great coffee for the judges.”

The World Barista Championships 2017 will take place in Seoul, Korea from November 9-12