Just a few weeks ago, St ALi barista and ‘coffee guy’ Matt Perger took out one of the coffee world’s ultimate accolades, winning the World Coffee Events’ World Brewer’s Cup Championship and becoming the first Australian to do so in the process.
Perger’s start has been on the rise for some time. He was awarded the title of NSW Barista Champion in 2010, Australian Barista Champion 2011 and placed third at the World Barista Championship in 2011. He even participated as a barista and an educator for the first Common Coffee TED event in 2011.
Perger’s coffee journey began at 16, working in a small country town cafe. “The coffee tasted awful and I kept wondering to myself, ‘why are people so fanatical about such a terrible beverage?’” To better understand the well-loved, but often poorly-brewed drink, Perger dived into the specialty coffee industry in search of the perfect brew.
Once in the industry, he was hooked. “Coffee allows me to combine all of my interests into one,” he says. “I enjoy a really hard challenge, pursuing scientific reason and method, designing beautiful products, hospitality and educating people.”
At only 22 years old, Perger is now a seasoned specialty coffee professional. But his success didn’t come without hard work. “I spent a lot of late nights in the St ALi training room making hundreds and hundreds of pour-overs to refine my technique.”
Much of his success also comes from being able to harness his rigorous dedication to precision without developing a pretentious façade. “This year, in Vienna, I decided to go on stage without a prepared speech to sound more natural – no fancy table settings, no speeches and no tricks up my sleeve.”
But that’s not to say that Perger hasn’t learned a few special tricks along the way. To the coffee layman, Perger’s scientific technique feels like a magical glimpse into the future of coffee. “I did a few unorthodox things to make the coffee taste the way I wanted,” Perger admits.
For example, after passing the coffee grounds over a sieve, to eliminate particles smaller than 250 microns, Perger “customised” the water used through a reverse-osmosis purifier and added minerals for flavour. “Coffee is 98 per cent water, so it’s very important and can affect the coffee’s flavour,” he explains.
As the Brewer’s Cup focuses solely on pour-over coffee, the title makes Perger Melbourne’s pour-over king, which perfectly suits our recent fascination with the method. And acccording to Perger, we are fascinated for good reason. “Filter coffee, whichever way it’s brewed is the best way to enjoy specialty coffee. It’s much more pleasant and approachable.”
Perger’s win is not only a success for him, but also for the St ALi group: Perger used a specialty Geisha cultivar from Santa Teresa in Panama that was roasted by St ALi. Unfortunately, he took the very last of the roast with him to Vienna.
So, what’s next for Melbourne’s young champion? Well, Perger will be representing St ALi at the Nordic Barista Cup in Copenhagen, where St ALi’s coffee will compete with 11 other roasters from around the world. He’ll also be preparing for the Australia Barista Competition and, of course, the upcoming World Barista Championship in Melbourne 2013.
“Melbourne 2013 will be an amazing event, and I’m very proud to welcome the competition to our soil. But we will be defending it at all costs!”