Kwazulu-Natal – For those who don’t know who Craig is, he is a 30-year old from Hillcrest and owns Lineage Coffee. Craig has made Kwazulu-Natal proud by becoming the new SA Barista Champion. Despite rigorous competition Craig won top honours in the South African Championships held in few months ago.
With a wealth of experience in the industry as a barista, coffee machine technician with love for coffee, Craig is the ideal ambassador to represent South Africa in the African and International Championships coming up in 2014.
Mzansi Life (ML):How long have you been involved in the hospitality industry?
Craig Charity (CC): For about five years.
ML: What have you done to win the title of SA Barista Champion?
CC: Quite a bit. I have been investing in this for a number of years. Winning the title is the sum of the effort that I put in over many years. I have bought cups from Switzerland, modified Grinders, bought a roaster so I can roast my own coffee, bought coffee from Kenya and flew it out. It was always a close competition – anyone could have won at the end.
But I believe that all the effort I have put in added up in the end.
ML: Would you participate in similar competitions in the future?
CC: Absolutely! I will be heading off to Italy to compete in the World Barista Championship this month. I have no idea what it will be like, I would obviously like to win it. But I will do my best to get a podium finish. I have undergone careful preparation and have made sure that I have sourced the best coffee.
I even went as far as to go to Guatemala in person to make sure that I have exactly what I need for the world champs. Some friends from Burundi, where the African Barista Championships event was hosted earlier this year, put me in touch with a local farmer in the Acantanango region and I was able to get a hold of one of the highest scoring coffees in Latin America.
ML: What makes a great cup of coffee?
CC: Freshly roasted beans in a plunger certainly do. Using fresh coffee in a bad machine will always achieve better results than using stale coffee in a good machine.
ML: Why do you think coffee has gone from being a household item to a special treat?
CC: I think that people have been enlightened to how good coffee can taste. We also have an emotional attachment to it. It makes us feel good and we attach those memories to coffee.
ML: Where do SA rank in coffee related trends?
CC: I travelled to London last year on a coffee tour visiting their best cafés. I came back realising that our top cafés are on par with their top cafés. I think the difference is that there is more of a market for speciality coffee there, and because of that there are more speciality coffee shops.
ML: How has Illovo aided you in your role as Barista Champ?
CC: Illovo’s sponsorship has opened many doors for me. I am now doing a series of road shows in Cape Town, JHB, Durban and PE in which I will be teaching the Baristas and Cafe Owners what is needed to produce consistently incredible cups of coffee.
I also went to Burundi to take part at the World Championships – thanks to Illovo.
ML: What advice would you give to aspiring Baristas in SA?
CC: Get a machine for your house. If it is just a job, it will never become anything more than that. If it is a passion, it will take you places.