Appreciating Assets

World Champion barista Sasa Sestic’s love for coffee is growing everyday

Sasa Sestic was born in Serbia and moved to Australia 15 years ago. 

“I love living in Canberra because it’s quiet and there’s a lot of space outdoors,” he says.

“I started working as a barista in Manuka which is one of Ona's flagships.”

He began roasting beans in a small shed outside Canberra and eventually built his own roastery in Fyshwick, Canberra six years ago.

“I love working with small producers,” he recalls. This in turn has allowed him to expand Ona Coffee and Project Origin to what it is today.

Is coffee truly a subjective drink?
S: Everyone has their own preferences. A prominent example is individuals who do not enjoy the fermented variety and its fruity character that many rave about. We are learning to get more out of our coffee. The Cupping Room in Canberra runs one standard milk base instead of mixing things up with Cappuccinos, Lattes and Flat Whites because coffee should be enjoyed with only a specific amount of milk to get the best out of it. We are just thinking about its taste rather than slavishly adhering to convention.

Does the cafe with the best toys always make the best coffee?
S: Absolutely not! Many specialty coffee shops rely too heavily on equipment and refractometers to make their coffee taste good. A great barista is one who wants to get the best out of their coffee. How it tastes is their number one priority. At Ona, we focus on roasting and consistent technique to obtain the optimum flavor – technology and toys only help when the coffee is already great and someone wants to push for an edge.

How much of coffee making is skill and practice versus talent?
S: What is exciting about coffee is that you don't have to be gifted to be a great barista. If you have passion and willingness to learn you can be a great. It’s key to always stay open-minded, humble. Some may have a small head-start with a sophisticated palate. I didn't. I just practised and my discernment improved.

Does it ever get old?
S: No it doesn't, there is always so much to learn in coffee. The coffee industry is a big community where people from all over the world happily come together due a shared love of coffee.

What’s your daily fix?
S: I enjoy filter coffee for everyday drinking, but a great espresso excites me. I love delicate, aromatic washed filter coffees. I also have a soft spot for washed Honduras for espresso due to its complex body and acidity. 

What keeps you going? Other than the caffeine.
S: I am willing to take risks. I am also obsessed, so working hard is the easy part. Knowing I can help improve the lives of the farmers who have contributed to my success. I am constantly motivated knowing we can always improve.

Are there individuals that you look up to?
S: Hidenori Izaki’s attention to detail is amazing, and he works incredibly hard. I also have great respect for producer Camilo Merizale because he pushes coffee farming to new levels and has also helped small Colombian producers to gain recognition in the specialty coffee market.

Is there truly a wrong way to drink coffee?
S: No, have it your way.

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