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MICE, Melbourne & the World Barista Championship 2022

by David Bakunowicz 27 Oct 2022
If you've been slingin' hot caffeinated beverages, namely coffee, for decent amount of time then the term 'MICE' will mean more to you than simply the plural of 'mouse', or at least it should. For those unacquainted, in the world of coffee, MICE stands for 'Melbourne International Coffee Expo'. On 27-30 September 2022, the expo was back following a two year hiatus for reasons you can guess. 'Back' is a dramatic understatement. If you speak TikTok then you'll be familiar with the phrase 'Coming in Hot'! Thanks Lecrae and Andy Mineo. On her 'humble' return, MICE also hosted the World Barista Championship (WBC) and Word Brewers Cup. In terms of high stakes coffee, this is the Mount Everest. If you're new to the coffee space, according to the letter of the law, 'MICE was created as Australia’s first and only coffee-dedicated trade show' in 2012 with the purpose 'to connect buyers and sellers, and bring industry members together in a dedicated space'. In reality, it's a week of geeking out on beans, machines, and setting new records on how many 'spros' humans can consume over a four day period. The unofficial activities extend far beyond the walls of the expo - early mornings and late nights - to extract (pun-intended) as much flavour out of the Melbourne pilgrimage as possible. Enter White Horse's Head of Coffee, Dominick Majdandzic (aka 'Domtron'), for a hot take on the
return of MICE...

World Barista Championship
As someone who has attended and exhibited at MICE many times over the years, what was the vibe on its return in 2022? DOM: I feel like I follow a lot of social media and keep in touch with what releases are coming up in the coffee industry. To be honest, given that it's so easy to stay in touch these days, I was not expecting to be surprised for MICE 2022. Thanks for your honesty, Dom... (tough crowd) DOM: Australia is no stranger to coffee shows or expos. We've been doing them for years, but there is something special about MICE. It's the largest gathering of coffee professionals in this country and I'm always eager to learn and see what others are doing, from local and international coffee roasters, to coffee machine suppliers, grinder companies, packaging solutions and much more. I feel like there is a 'but' coming... DOM (now smiling): However, I was humbled to have some fascinating conversations with a number of people, one of which was Dan from Specht Design - talking to him about his passion for taking a domestic or commercial espresso machine and turning it into a dream. Think Pimp My Ride for coffee machines!

World Barista Championship Melbourne
Rocket Espresso 'pimped' out by Specht Design.
To experience such genuine love and passion to make beautiful coffee machines and elevating already amazing products was exciting. Ok, so you're warming up.. DOM: As a self-proclaimed coffee geek, it was cool to see the plethora of gadgets that brands like Pesado have, even though i have seen the products online, the real life experience was much more educational. What other themes and trends did you notice at MICE? DOM: There was a definite influx of alternate milk brands, which reflects the modern cafe life and peoples drink ordering habits, it was fun to taste them all to be honest. Hats off to Minor Figures who thought outside the box and built a really cool chillout zone. When you are surrounded by an event full of stimulants, I found taking 5 minutes to sit in an isolated room, filled with incense and personalized headphones playing relaxing chant music a top notch way to separate from the crowd. What about your favourite coffee stand? DOM: My standout stand had to be Toby’s Estate. They ran a competition where they asked people to craft their own blend from 6 coffees available, and that coffee was then brewed by professional baristas. It was an interactive stand that was not only eye-catching with an enormous digital display, but also a great sensory experience from the blend creation competition they ran.

MICE, Melbourne & The World Barista Championship
Dom at the Toby's stand after making his own blend.
What else appealed to your inner coffee geek? DOM: MICE is not only brewing coffee all day, but partying every night. On one particular night La Marzocco hosted a party and I was surprised to be introduced to the designer (Nicola) of the new release Linea S coffee machine. I really loved hearing Nicola’s thoughts and design process. So I found that the hot water button on the original machine failed all the time... Where are you going with this? DOM: So Nicola built a robot to actuate the switch and solve for the problem. He aimed for 1 million actuations, and conceded and turned the robot off at 8 million actuations. How amazing is that for RnD!? Any other highlights? DOM: I have to say that I was blessed to be a judge at the Milklab Barista Battle, the Australian final of the World Alternative Milk Latte Art competition. There were some amazing latte arts conducted, all poured free hand, from rabbits, to bulls, to seahorses, elephants, squirrels, the list went on. Amazingly, an Australian latte artist from Queensland, Patryk Tomasik, took home the prize. Let talk about the World Barista Championship... DOM: The last time Australia held the World Barista championship was 2013, this was our second time hosting this prestigious 23 year strong coffee competition. I have visited this competition many times, and even competed, so I have a keen interest in this area. To make this event even more special I was lucky to taste the Australian competitors' coffee a few weeks ago at his roastery. To my amazement, Anthony Douglas not only won the title of World champion but was the first ever to win it in their home nation. I can attest that he is a world class barista and his coffee was superb! Let's wrap this up. What was your most memorable experience outside the expo itself? DOM: We were also blessed to have two separate experiences at a bespoke coffee shop called Path in North Melbourne. If you could imagine something that was in between an opulent cellar door experience and boutique wine bar that served coffee, then this was it. If coffee is not something you drink but something you live for, then you must visit this place.

Path, North Melbourne.
For me personally it ranks as one of the best hospitality experiences i have ever had. It was the level of professionalism you would expect at a 3 hat restaurant with the expert yet humble approach to brewing, sharing and talking about the greatest drink of all, coffee. Any final words? DOM: MICE was surprising, fulfilling and insightful all at the same time. If you want to start a cafe, or own a coffee-related business, I highly recommend visiting the show next time they run it. Exit Dom.

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