#WOC2016: the passion of a great champion

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I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I didn’t work with coffee.” Here we are in leafy Dublin, which this year provided the backdrop to the sixteenth edition of the famous itinerant World of Coffee fair organised by the Speciality Coffee Association of Europe (SCAE).

From the Astoria stand the world champion of the “Coffee in Good Spirits”competition, Michalis Dimitrakopoulos, gives us a smile of pride and satisfaction. He has just finished his demonstration and welcomes us enthusiastically as we join him for a chat.

Hi Michalis. Congratulations on your victory in Shanghai! What was the first thing that came into your mind when you discovered you were the new World Coffee in Good Spirits Champion?

It was absolutely incredible for me! I had spent a really long time preparing and practising for it, but it had never entered my head that I might come first. It was the most wonderful gift, not just for me but also for my friends.

How did you find using the Plus4You to prepare the coffee for the basis of your cocktails?

The Plus4You was fantastic! It allowed me to achieve the consistency and balance I wanted. What I found really useful was the setting that allows you to change the temperature of the units and it enabled me to play with the acidity and the bitterness.

What did you make of the Astoria coffee machines you saw in Dublin?

Astoria gets better all the time! All its machines give something completely different when it comes to making coffee.

You gave a really high-level performance on the Astoria stand. Did the visitors get involved?

The visitors were all very curious to know more about the ‘third coffee wave’ and about how the coffee machine you use can make all the difference to a simple cup of coffee.

Let’s go back a step. How did your career in coffee begin?

It all began in 2009. I was a regular customer at a coffee shop in Patra, the town I come from, and a great friend of mine, Nikos Apostolopoulos, was working there as head barista. He was the first person to notice my love of coffee, and one day he suggested I should become an apprentice barista and work with him.

A few years later I was in Athens for a coffee tour. Tasos Delichristos, who was the World Coffee in Good Spirits Champion in 2008, offered me a job at “The Underdog“, where I still work with some other fantastic champions.

In 2016 I became the Greek champion of Coffee in Good Spirits and then the world champion during Hotelex in Shanghai.

Do you remember the first coffee cocktail you made? What was it really like?

I tried making my first coffee cocktail when I was working at “The Underdog”. It was great; I’d never tried making anything like it before and in my opinion the result wasn’t at all bad!

How do you match the ingredients for your cocktails?

You can make any coffee taste better by mixing it with the right kind of spirit. My work is a continuous experiment aimed at finding the right balance of ingredients.

Can you tell us what your favourite coffee cocktail is? What song would you suggest as a soundtrack to help you enjoy it?

My favourite was the one I made during the World Coffee in Good Spirits Championship this year. The main ingredient, apart from coffee, was rum, which I love, and in my opinion it goes particularly well with soul-house music.

How do you feel when you make coffee nowadays?

I feel like a child. When I’m making coffee a huge amount of love and passion goes into it that I would never have expected to feel about a simple drink. Coffee means everything to me.

What images does the smell of coffee evoke for you?

When I smell coffee it’s like the start of a game for me: every time I make myself identify the sensations it creates in me so that I can explain it to other people.

How do you see your future in the world of coffee?

I would like to carry on working at “The Underdog“, and at the same time be part of the Astoria family. I’d like to continue to develop as a barista, which is what I love doing: making coffee for people who appreciate true quality.