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The World In A Cup: Melbourne International Coffee Expo 2012

Tyrell Mills visited the inaugural Melbourne International Coffee Expo, which took place at the Melbourne Showgrounds over the weekend.

Melbourne’s booming coffee culture took a step towards being a world leader over the weekend, with the inaugural Melbourne International Coffee Expo (M.I.C.E) taking place at the Melbourne Showgrounds.

The 4th to the 6th of May saw over 70 local and international coffee businesses, from machine makers and bean roasters through to water filter specialists and environmentally friendly cup producers, all gather under the one roof to show their wares and talents to business owners and coffee lovers alike.

By Sunday afternoon roughly 10,000 people had attended with only the Sunday being open for the public (Friday and Saturday were reserved for trade and business shows only).

The Sunday crowd were treated to a range of demonstrations and samplings of different coffee techniques. This included how to master the humble espresso shot, all the way up to complicated cold drip and siphon coffee demonstrations that are done using heating systems and an assortment of different sized and shaped jugs, beakers and glassware that wouldn’t look out of place in an episode of Breaking Bad.

Well, Walter White had to start SOMEWHERE.

Several names familiar to the Melbourne coffee scene such as Ducale Coffee, Genovese and Grinders coffee were on hand to give the people what they came for; coffee by the bag full. Kings of cool, Proud Mary coffee, were also present with a consistently large crowd surrounding their stall all day long.

Centre stage, however, belonged to the Barista competitions that took place in the middle of all the coffee madness. Doubters of Melbourne’s ability to emerge as a new world leader in coffee culture would have been mistaken for being at a football match during the barista championships and latte art competitions, with a cheering arena crowd, lively M.C’s and use of crowd friendly big-screen televisions to capture all of the action.

Honours on the day went to Queensland’s Fred Lullfitz who won the cupping competition (the ability to distinguish individual tastes, aromas and ingredients of a coffee), Matt Perger who took out the Brewer’s cup. Brisbane student Scott Luengen was crowned Australian latte art champion and Melbourne’s own Craig Simon won the title of the Australian Barista Championship.

M.I.C.E director and General Manager of Cog advertising, Clint Hendry, was pleased with the expo’s first ever outing, admitting that it had been in the works for  a few years with the Australian coffee industry believing there was a need for a national event, and the Australasian Specialty Coffee Association (AASCA, those who organise the Australian barista championship) wanting a relevant home for the national barista and latte art championships instead of being tacked onto other food and beverage trade shows.

“Melbourne is a particularly fitting city to hold the expo in, as it has a long and dedicated coffee culture and established industry”, Hendry says, adding “ The weekend’s trade show made a resonating impression amongst industry professionals with a large number of businesses already signing up for next year’s event”.

The show floor

Next year may see an even bigger coffee expo take place, with Hendry revealing that the AASCA had submitted an application to have the 2013 world Barista championships held at the expo, which would bring further spotlight to Melbourne’s claim as a coffee capital.

The driving factor behind Melbournian’s love affair with coffee according to Hendry, is its uniting spirit. Which is true; there wasn’t any kind of demographic that you could pin down at the expo, just people from all walks of life. This fits Melbourne to a tee what with it’s longstanding multicultural roots.

Sydney barista Paris Millis, who has over 15 years of coffee making experience, journeyed down to Melbourne to work at the Grinders coffee stall for the event and attributed the Australian coffee culture to a strong following by the younger generations of coffee enthusiasts. Millis believes that there is a positive industry for a young person to enter, which is defined by its sense of community and camaraderie amongst baristas and cafe goers alike.

While the expo has wrapped up for now, Melbourne’s influence on the world coffee stage will no doubt continue to grow. And you can bet that the smell of a thousand different kinds of coffee will hang in the air of the Showground’s grand pavilion for some time to come.

Tyrell Mills is a coffee addict. In his spare time he is also a 3rd year Media student at La Trobe University. You can follow him on Twitter @tyrellmmm.

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