At the beginning of summer, Alina Sinkevych, KALVE Head Roaster, participated in the Ukrainian Barista Championship and secured a strong 5th place. This was her first experience in such a high-level competition, and although the time given to prepare was very short, Alina was satisfied with her performance, gained valuable insights and set new professional goals. National-level barista competitions serve as a pathway to qualify for the World Barista Championship, which is one of the most important industry events that brings together the world's best baristas, coffee professionals, and enthusiasts.
In addition, Alīna's competition coffee will be added to KALVE's coffee lineup. In Alina's words, it's coffee for celebrations and parties. We sat down to talk with Alīna about her experience in the competition and why her coffee is so special.
What was your inspiration for participating in the Ukrainian Barista championship?
I work as a head roaster in KALVE Coffee, but I always consider myself also as a barista. When I worked as a barista, every shift was like a competition, where you are trying to do your best with each cup of coffee. You are trying to present every drink as best as you can. In real competition it is about showing and explaining what you can do. When I understood that I wanted to participate, I started to watch other performances from previous competitions. I was amazed at how much I did not know about making coffee and how many details I did not pay attention to. I wasn't afraid of the high level of professionalism, because I wanted to be part of it. Also it was very important for me to participate in the Ukrainian Barista Championship, because Ukraine is my motherland. Coffee scene is a very big and growing industry in Ukraine, it is important to me to be part of this new coffee generation of Ukraine.
What was your biggest achievement and challenge during the whole process?
Biggest achievement and challenge at the same time was the preparation process itself. Competitors usually prepare and train for months if not years. Nobody really believed that the competition would happen in Ukraine. When they officially announced the Ukrainian Barista championship, there was only one month left until the competition. There is very little time to prepare. I had to find the right roast profile, find cups and prepare the work routine and presentation.
Also hardest but the most enjoyable moment was finding an espresso recipe for my coffee. At one point I thought that I made a mistake and had chosen a coffee that is not suitable for espresso. But after too many espresso shots and coffee intoxication, I finally found the recipe that tasted amazing. I presented all my competition drinks to my colleagues who evaluated my presentation based on the rules and protocol of competition judges. They really loved the signature drink!
How did you choose your competition coffee?
Our partners Falcon Coffees sent over 20 coffee samples. I roasted them and cupped them together with my colleagues. We chose the coffee profile, because it should be roasted and presented as espresso. We had a strategy of choosing 5 favorites and then cupping these 5 coffees blindly. My coffee - El Diviso - was so bright and unique, that I could recognize it immediately. It is super fruity, bright, sweet and very funky. Me and my colleagues weren't sure that this coffee is suitable for espresso, but I chose it anyway, because it has this unique acidity and tropical fruit notes, which I really like in coffee. This coffee is for celebration and coffee you sure will remember!
What makes "El Diviso" coffee so special?
Coffee was grown in Colombia, Huila. El Deviso is a farm run by 24 year old producer Nestor Lasso. Coffee variety is Red Bourbon and it's been through complex anaerobic fermentation and natural process. Anaerobic fermentation means that coffee is fermented in an oxygen-less environment.
First coffee is floated in water in order to separate the best and ripest coffee cherries (those sink to the bottom, the damaged or defected cherries float on top). Then follows the complex anaerobic fermentation process, where coffee is put in jars for 70 hours to ferment at the temperature of 17° Celsius. After fermentation the cherries are moved to a tank for the oxidation process, which takes 28 hours at the temperature of maximum of 42° Celsius. After coffee goes back to anaerobic fermentation of 30 hours at a temperature of 16-20° Celsius. For the last fermentation step coffee is moved back to the tanks filled with water and residue of the last coffee harvest of temperature of 45° Celsius. There coffee spends 18 hours and is regularly stirred. Then follows the parabolic drying process which means that coffee is dried on rised beds under shade, so the air can circulate better and the drying process is more even. The temperature does not go over 32° Celsius. When it reaches 18% moisture level the drying process is stopped. Coffee is stored in dark bags in a dark warehouse for 60 hours and then returned to the same drying facility to reach a desirable moisture level of 11%.
It all results in a coffee flavour profile that has tropicals like mango and papaya, it has sparkling wine notes that also appear not only in flavour but also in texture. Coffee reminds me of sour lime candy and citrus cheese tart. It's an absolute party in the cup!
What would you suggest to aspiring baristas and coffee enthusiasts?
For baristas I suggest working on technique. Learn how to prepare and put two portfilters in groups at once. It saves time and looks cool! Try to optimize the time you spent on making coffee. If you can do that quicker without losing quality - do that. You will have more time to communicate with customers and do other nice things.
Secondly, start thinking that whenever you are working behind the counter, you are on stage. Read World Barista Championship rules, they are not special and limited to competition only, they are meant for all baristas at every coffee shop.
For coffee enthusiasts I suggest not to be afraid of experimentation. In “Ibrik Championship” I saw that you can make coffee with ibrik but then put the coffee through Aeropress and it will make the coffee taste cleaner.
Sometimes it's time for a coffee party and you can make something exciting for yourself and friends! Many coffee cocktails can easily be done at home, you do not need much, just good coffee, other ingredients if you like and inspiration! Be a funky coffee person because life is a celebration!
The KALVE team experienced authentic farm life in Brazil, as Raquel Ribeiro Aguiar, the owner of the "Cerrado Grande" farm, warmly welcomed us to h...
The collaboration between SANCOFFEE and KALVE COFFEE and the cooperatives's significance in the region
With this last journal entry from Brazil, we want to highlight and tell you more about our collaboration partner - the "Sancoffee" cooperative. Bra...