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Magic Beans: How Sasa Sestic's Coffee is Changing the World

Published: 27 Jul 2015

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Sasa Sesetic with CIT Students

Everybody's dream starts somewhere. For 2015 world barista champion Sasa Sestic that place was Canberra Institute of Technology, where he made his first coffee as part of his hospitality studies.

"I was lucky to find the thing I love to do," Sasa says.

Sasa returned to CIT last week to share his inspiring story with the teachers and staff who taught him, thanking them for helping ignite his passion and supporting his dream. 

Originally a handball champion, Sasa arrived in Australia in 1997, and represented Australia in the sport in the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. After taking English language courses at CIT and thinking about a career move, he tried his hand at hospitality.

Unsure at first of which field within hospitality to follow, he says the CIT experience was great for giving him a broad taste of the industry.

"I loved the CIT Restaurant and all the practical experience we could do. I remember walking up and down stairs with bowls of water to practise service," he says.

"CIT opened my eyes to the industry, I think it's a better way to go through everything and gain a great basic knowledge of the entire industry than just getting a job in a café straight from school. It's a good platform for someone to see if they have a passion and drive for it."

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He particularly enjoyed the diploma level of his studies, learning the business side of things and learning to think like a manager.

Sasa started roasting his own coffee in 2008 and, missing the competitive scene he'd enjoyed in sport, starting competing in coffee.

It was a learning curve.

"I used to come dead last. The judges would give me feedback and they'd say, why are you doing this? Coffee is best in Sydney and Melbourne."

Undeterred, the proud Canberran eventually became the first barista from Canberra to make the finals in the national barista championship. Later, his specialty brew for the world championship incorporated local Clonakilla Shiraz Voignier, which he said was a great way of showing off the city he loves.

Between travelling and commitments, Sasa continues to enjoy making coffee at his Fyshwick and Manuka locations (Ona Coffee) and Civic (Cupping Room).

"I love coffee, and the challenge to chase perfection every day. I've also learnt coffee is not just a cup, it's a story as well.

It's a story Sasa is now quite literally writing.

Having travelled to 28 countries each year over the last three years, he now works closely with 100 farmers across 10 countries to help develop the industry, saying it is a "privilege and responsibility" to share his skills and knowledge to change the lives of others.

A book chronicling Sasa's story and the global coffee story as well as a documentary are expected to be available in early 2016.