Caleb `Tiger` Cha

12.00 - highlight was my live interiew with world latte art Champion 2015, Caleb Cha!Thank you!

12.00 – highlight was my live interiew with world latte art Champion 2015, Caleb Cha! Thank you!

I had the privileged of conducting a live Skype interview with the current 2015 Latte Art World Champion, Caleb ‘Tiger’ Cha, during Coffee Friday Zurich. It was an interesting and fun exchange. Take a read and find out what makes this World Champion Barista roar!

Maria: When did you first decide to get into the coffee scene and why?
 I actually used to be a financial consultant for four years right after finishing my military service as a Marine officer and the ROTC (Reserve Officers Training Corps) in Korea. I had a dream that I would be able to have my own consulting team and my own financial company at last. However, the consulting schedules were too much and physically exhausting so I had to stop. I immediately decided to move to Australia and I arrived in Melbourne a week after my decision in 2008. Fortunately, I was able to get a job as a barista after completing a coffee course in 2008. That’s the beginning of my barista life in Melbourne.
Maria: What drew you to Latte Art?
Caleb: The three patterns I created for my WLAC routine included the Caffeinated Zebra, Love Triangle and the Flirting Peacock. Each one of these patterns is an original design and that’s what I’m most proud of. I got the opportunity to present the judges with something they’d never seen before.
Maria: Which Barista’s have inspired you and why?
Caleb: 2010 Australian Latte Art Champion ‘Will Priestly’ inspired me a lot. Since 2009, We used to work under a same Cafenatics but different branch and he has been always a great barista.
After he came 1st in Australian Latte Art Championship I have always been dreaming to be like him one day.
Maria: How do you typically prepare for competition?
Caleb: Firstly, I read the WLAC rules very carefully because everything you should do, shouldn’t do is in the rules and it’s obviously stated so you don’t want to miss it. Secondly, I tried to create my own patterns. Like I always say to people that you want to have your own original patterns to show judges and audience. Creating something new takes a lot of time so you might want to start as early as you could start.Thirdly, once your patterns have selected, and just a repetition.
I replicated 100 cups of each patterns a day, seven days straight for seven weeks.
That means 300 cups a day, 2000 cups a week, 14,000 cups till the WLAC.
Practice makes perfect.
Maria: What are you like on competition day and how do you stay cool?
Caleb: Of course like the others, I was extremely nervous and anxious. However I tried to be calm down and relaxed because it was only one opportunity in my lifetime and I didn’t want it to be ruined by my unstable emotion.
The way I calm down, clench my fist with breathing in, loose my fist with breathing out and convince myself that all of my nervous has just gone with the breathe. That actually works.
Maria: World Latte Art Champion is quite an impressive title – what does this role mean to you and what have you accomplished so far in your role?
Caleb: It is an absolutely amazing title for me to achieve in the coffee industry. I became the World champion in 14 months as I only started competing from 2014. My challenge was well paid off and achieved pretty much successfully in such a short period of time. This means I could be more confidence whatever I initiate also I could trust of my potential.
I still have a lot of things to learn more about coffee and absolutely ready for it.
Maria: Where do you get your inspiration for your latte art images?
Caleb: Basically I always see things in a bit different way. Majority of my original latte art patterns come from those point of view and it’s all in my head before I actually deliver into the cups.
Imagine how you could achieve the patterns into the cups first and try every single way you could pour in your practice time.  Dragging it, pushing it, rolling it, wiggling it just try everything. You’ll finally get something really cool at the end.
Maria: OK, so the names of your 3 winning artworks are pretty creative – what inspired them and which is your favorite?
“Flirting Peacock”,
The Flirting Peacock is something I created back in 2014, and I’ve refined it along the way.
Baristas who have attempted peacock in the past used an etching tool to create the detail. But I wanted to do it all free pour, using the drag of my milk to create fine lines through the pattern.
“Love Triangle”,
It’s a three-leaf tulip with love hearts around the tulip. It was meant to be a bit humorous, showing a fight over love rather than just pouring normal tulips.
“The Caffeinated Zebra”.
My favorite pattern is the Zebra. I discovered the concept when I was practicing tulips, looking for different pouring techniques and angles. All of a sudden, I created what I though looked like an armadillo, but with a few changes it became a zebra. Instead of using tulips to produce the body, I thought, “why not use rosettas for more definition?” Tulips also take longer to pour under the ticking clock in a competition performance.
Maria: For someone who is starting out as a Barista, what advice would you give them?
Caleb: Working behind the machine as a Barista is absolutely not an easy job but once you decided to be the Barista, learn from everybody as much as you can, make your own goal and chase it until you get to the goal. At the end of the day, all I would like to mostly advice to you is just please do not give up too early before you achieve it.
Dream about it, Keep working on it, you will take it one day.
Maria: What’s next for Caleb?
Caleb: I would enjoy this winning moment for a bit more and will be touring the World as a judge, demonstrator, speaker and a teacher for inspiring a lot of people. When the right time has come, I’ll be running my own business at some stage.