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December 12, 2022

Magic beans: Roasters to vie for new awards

The team behind the state’s leading wine, beer, cider and spirits award shows is turning its hand to coffee roasting.

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  • Pictures: Supplied by the Sydney Royal Show
  • This article was produced in collaboration with the Royal Adelaide Coffee Show.

South Australia’s Royal Agricultural and Horticultural Society (RAHS) has been showcasing the talents of local and national producers for more than 180 years, and today its specialist award shows provide a benchmark against which to judge themselves and their competition.


Call for entries for the Royal Adelaide Coffee Show opens on 9 January 2023

So well regarded is their flagship Royal Adelaide Wine Show that this year’s competition attracted 2588 entries from 350 exhibitors nationwide.

Now the team is delivering one of the country’s first coffee roasting national award shows. RAHS marketing manager Jordan Philp says with Australia’s strong coffee culture, it was an obvious move.

“It just felt like the next natural evolution,” Jordan says. “There wasn’t a national coffee competition in the market celebrating roasteries [with] this level of judging and the setup that we have.”

That setup will see the Royal Adelaide Coffee Show adopt the same strict protocols as it does for wine judging.

To settle on the judging criteria and processes, RAHS has been working with the Australian Coffee Traders Association, which also saw a strong need for a national event.

Four judging panels – each comprised of three judges with more than four years of hands-on roastery experience, plus a newcomer ‘associate’ – will assess all of the five categories.

The categories are champion espresso, champion latte, champion plunger coffee, champion piccolo and champion organic coffee.

For even the most ardent coffee drinker, it looks to be a challenging task. Consequently, breaks will be more frequent than for wine judges, with a palate cleanser encouraged after every three or four exhibits.

“Plain crackers, apple, milk and lukewarm water,” says Jordan.

The roasters will also provide their green, unroasted beans for judgment. These will be assessed for quality, aroma and the preparation of the beans at a processing level. An even colour is a good reflection of moisture content.

Assessing the unroasted beans helps to determine if a roasted coffee is a true representation of its original form. To corrupt a phrase: one person’s one hundred per cent arabica is another’s blended robusta.

Australia’s coffee roasting industry is surprisingly large, with around 735 roasters nationally, including 78 in South Australia.

Award shows, through benchmarking, help to increase product quality. But it can feel as if sampling an award winner is a pleasure reserved for those with deep pockets, especially in today’s financial climate.

However, this new award show is set to benefit anyone willing to part with just $5 for a satisfying brew.

“The contribution back to the coffee culture in Australia is just better coffee,” Jordan says.

Find out more at the Royal Adelaide Coffee Show website.

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