Will's Blog

Not Your Ordinary Coffee Comp: Behind the Epic Will & Co Barista Smackdown

on Dec 18, 2023

The Will & Co HQ Tasting Bar is always a guaranteed good time, but on Thursday, 26 October the vibes and buzz were next level. Our Barista Smackdown, held as part of our 10-year celebrations, undoubtedly goes down as one of the most epic moments in our journey thus far. Featuring all the things we love – community, fun, mates, surf culture, and damn good coffee – plus a prize pool of $10,000 to award, how could it not?

Check out the highlight reel and read more about the night below.

The Will & Co Barista Smackdown was nothing like the stiff coffee-making competitions you’ve seen before. While we take our coffee very seriously, the event reflected our laid-back and playful approach to life, drawing a packed house of baristas and their enthusiastic supporters. The vibe was unreal, with anticipation building right through until the final round.

Attendees were fuelled with incredible food from local Bondi joint, Chuck Trailers, cocktails from Maybe Sammy and refreshing brews from Bondi Beer – a long-time collaborator and mate of Will & Co. DJ Ruby J kept the energy high, while 7News Sunrise weatherman James Tobin (dressed by Bondi designer Five by Flynn) was the ultimate MC, ensuring good times all night. It was the perfect environment to engage with the specialty coffee community.

The competition saw 32 of Australia’s finest baristas go head-to-head for a slice of $10,000 across four exciting rounds.

In Round One, dubbed ‘Luck of the Dart’, baristas determined their pour by throwing darts at balloons strung on a custom board, hand-painted by our good mate Emiel Saada. Behind each balloon was a different pour, including classics such as hearts, tulips, rosettas and swans – plus a few wild card surfer pours. Some of the designs we saw were Leonardo da Vinci-level insane.

‘Oatly Approved’ Round Two saw the remaining 16 baristas battle for the top eight spots, showing off their skills with alternative milk. Using Oatly Oat Milk, they were tasked with pouring the perfect tulip.

In Round Three, titled ‘Don’t Miss Your Flight’, eight baristas had to create a flight consisting of a piccolo, flat white and cappuccino with total artistic freedom – one flight included a snail, bunny and seahorse. Nuts. The last battle in this round was a highlight, featuring two first-time Smackdown competitors (and two seriously talented baristas).

The final, ‘Mona Lisa’, saw the top four baristas pour for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place, with freedom to express their artistry however they pleased – and what they came up with was wild. The winning creations included a surfer and seahorse, which most people would struggle to draw with pen and paper (let alone milk and coffee). The incredibly talented Enzen Liu took home 1st place (and a $5,000 surfboard-shaped cheque), while legends Tee Nguyen and Miley Kangkan took 2nd and 3rd (winning $3,000 and $2,000) respectively.

There was a mystery ‘Surf’s Up’ round in the mix, too, which saw two baristas complete their pour whilst sitting on a surfboard raised in the air. The winner, Manon Oziol, received the ultimate surf pack: a Spooked Kooks Surfboard and a surf lesson for her and a friend with Bondi icons, Let’s Go Surfing. We told you this wasn’t your ordinary barista competition.

The event truly encapsulated the spirit of Will & Co. Damn fine specialty coffee was a big part of it, but what made it really special for us was the strong sense of community, surf culture and mateship. On that note, a big thanks to our mates Oatly, Bondi Beer, Five by Flynn, Let’s Go Surfing and Sun Bum – the Will & Co Barista Smackdown wouldn’t have been possible without your support.

 See you at the next one, legends.