21 Jan 2015

DLA2015 Finalists: Who is Belle Montanus?

The Dutch Latte Art Championships 2015 finals. Six baristas will compete against each other, each of them hoping they will be good enough to go on to the World Latte Art Championships in Gothenburg, Sweden.

The pre rounds are just behind us. So who is our top six? How do they see coffee? And what will they bring to the Latte Art Finals during the Amsterdam Coffee Festival?

Photo by Vinni Zwaan @wetthefilter blog

works at: Coffeecompany Mr. Treublaan and Head Quarters 

Who is your coffee inspiration? 

I have the World Coffee Atlas by James Hoffmann on my night stand, but for real inspiration I rather look at the people surrounding me in daily life. It's a fair group actually, but there are some in particular who teach me and have taught me a lot. First, and this is going to sound really cheesy, there is you, Cerianne! If it wasn't for you, I would certainly not stand where I stand today. You were the one who made me start competing in the first place. Second, there's my coach and close friend, Vinni Zwaan. He's always telling other people I'm one of the best baristas in the Netherlands, while I don't even know half as much as he does. Maybe he doesn't realise this, but I have learnt a lot of things from him. From formulating cupping notes, to brewing coffees the best way possible, to always having fun in whatever I am doing. And then there is Stijn Braas, the biggest coffee nerd I know and the man who taught me how to really make coffee and woke my passion for it. 

Who taught you latte art? 

Wow, there we go again: that would be you. The first latte art training I ever had, was given by you, Cerianne. I had the training when I was working at the Coffeecompany for about six months. I taught myself to pour a heart before the training, found out I did it in a very odd way, tried to pour it the way you were teaching me and didn't dare to pour latte art for about three months after the training. That is how badly I sucked at pouring latte art. I couldn't even make an apple, which was totally the awesomest thing to do back then. After three months, I slowly started pouring some things again, this time more successfully. I have taught myself a great deal of figures, later Francesco, Stijn and you showed me how to create more contrast and how to pour as I pour now. And of course, I also looked at people like Kim Staalman and Esther Maasdam. We all do, right?!

If you walk into a coffeebar that you have not been before and you want to assess the quality level, what do you look for? And what do you order? And why? 

I look for the type of espresso machine, the type of grinders and of course, the coffee inside the grinders. I'll check out who roasts their coffee and ask the barista if he or she can tell me something about it. I'd probably order an espresso or a filter coffee, I don't really like milk. 

Do you order coffee when you know it will be bad, or do you then skip the coffee and order something else? 

No, I definitely would not take the coffee. I would probably order tea.

What is your favourite brew method? 

It used to be V60 or Chemex, but since a few weeks I'm back to the Aeropress. Love.

How do you brew coffee at home? 

Aeropress, V60, Clever or Chemex. I also have this very weird Douwe Egberts dripper in the shape of a flower or their own logo, not sure what it is. I don't really use it, however. Haven't found a way to use it properly, not sure if that's even possible.

If people ask you what they should buy for making coffee at home, what do you suggest they buy? Why? 

A simple starter's brew kit, consisting of a grinder and a brew method like an Aeropress, because it is really hard to mess up. Or a dripper, depending on what they like better. Or a Chemex, as you can also use it as a vase. Yeah, my mum does that.

What is the best coffee you had this year?

What's with the hard questions?! Hmm.... The best coffee that I had this year was a Kenya Githiga AA, roasted by Workshop in London, that my brother brought back for me. The best coffee of 2014 ...there were so many... Some very special ones were the unwashed Kenya espresso from Trakteren and a flat white made of Angelina (Costa Rica), roasted by White Label and brewed by Vinni.

Where (coffee related) do you still want to go? 

Scandinavia! Australia! Berlin! The west coast of the USA! so many places I would love to visit... Or, also a very big dream: ORIGIN TRIP!! hahaha! It would be very awesome to actually see a coffee farm.

Do you take coffee and coffee brew methods with you when travelling? If so, what do you bring? 

Yes! I bring my Aeropress and grinder, sometimes my V60. And I actually always have a bag of coffee in my backpack, it's as normal for me as bringing my phone or wallet.

What is the worst coffee you ever had?
The coffee at my grandma's. But that is not a very nice thing to say. And Nescafé.

And finally some questions about latte art and the Dutch Championships. What is the most important variable (coffee, grind, pitcher, milk, etc) for latte art and why?
Tough one! I'm guessing coffee, since you can't make latte art without a proper espresso. On the other hand, pouring art with soy or skimmed milk is also harder than using whole milk. And there always are some pitchers that pour better than others. Can't I just pick all of the above?

Why do you think you placed for the finals of the DLA? What did you do to achieve this?
To be honest, I haven't trained that much, since I had tendinitis in my right wrist and elbow for about two months. So it was my experience with the competition and doing routines that pretty much helped me through. I do want to put a lot more effort in the finale!

What are you looking forward to the most now that you placed for the finals of the DLA?
Inspiration for new figures! No idea what to pour yet...

How are you going to prepare yourself for the finals?
By training my ass off from the start of February. I have to hand in my thesis at the end of January, from then on I'm going to be focusing on the finals all the way.

Who is your biggest competition this year?
All the other five finalists. You never know, someone unexpected can just pop up and take that trophy!

Anything you would like to add?
I'm already tired when thinking of the months ahead of me. But it will be awesome to stand in the finals again! I'm looking forward to it so much! I enjoyed the hell out of it last year and will certainly do so again! See you all in May!

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Do you want to read about the other finalists? Read about RobMaryseLennartNick and Joep.

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