Pil­grim’s progress:

As a youngster Will Pri­est­ley didn’t like cof­fee. Now the bev­er­age is tak­ing him around the world.

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - TASSIE LIVING -

Not for the first time, Tas­ma­nian cof­fee king Will Pri­est­ley is about to take on the world, but the bev­er­age that has taken him to the top has not al­ways been his cup of tea.

In fact, be­fore he be­came the Aus­tralian Latte Art Cham­pion in 2010 — he was also run­ner-up at the world championships in the same year — he didn’t even like cof­fee.

“Do you know what, when I was a kid I ab­so­lutely hated cof­fee, I thought it was ter­ri­ble,” he said.

“My Dad used to drink in­stant, and I’d never tried any­thing that was good and I’d never tried spe­cialty cof­fee.

“I’d only ever tried bad cof­fee, and then when I tried spe­cialty cof­fee I re­ally en­joyed it, and it’s been re­ally handy be­cause I have that naturally dis­cern­ing palate be­tween good and bad.”

Will, 31, owns Pil­grim Cof­fee, and is in­volved in a num­ber of cof­fee places and eater­ies around Ho­bart.

He is set to take on the world’s best once more in com­pe­ti­tions in the US and Eng­land later this year, earn­ing his tick­ets by tak­ing out the na­tion­wide Al­mond Breeze Breezy Mas­ters Award in Sydney late last year.

It hasn’t been an easy path to the top, though, with an ini­tial dis­like of cof­fee the first of many hur­dles.

He gave up an agri­cul­tural sci­ence de­gree to pur­sue his pas­sion, and moved to Melbourne about nine years ago due in part to the lack of op­por­tu­ni­ties in Ho­bart.

“I said I wanted to be a ca­reer barista — which I ac­tu­ally did — and my Mum cried,” he said.

“Every­one thought I was ab­so­lutely crazy, and I re­ally en­joyed mak­ing cof­fee, but no one thought there was a fu­ture in it.”

How­ever, in re­cent years Ho­bart has seen cof­fee cul­ture ex­plode, pro­vid­ing Will with an op­por­tu­nity to re­turn to his home state while con­tin­u­ing to fol­low his pas­sion.

It is his fiercely com­pet­i­tive streak that Will be­lieves has pro­pelled him to the top of the cof­fee game.

“When I was train­ing for the worlds I locked my­self in a train­ing room for 14 to 16 hours a day and it was mind-numb­ing, ab­so­lutely mind-numb­ing,” he said. “In ret­ro­spect it was cool, but it was hell, I was train­ing so hard.”

Will’s lat­est latte art vic­tory has opened a num­ber of in­ter­na­tional doors, with Will set to jet off to the US for the Amer­i­can Barista Championships, and London for a Cof­fee Mas­ters com­pe­ti­tion later this year.

He has also been in Japan this week for a re­match with the woman who pipped him in the 2010 Latte Art World Championships.

Will hopes to use his time abroad to learn even more about the ev­er­chang­ing cof­fee in­dus­try.

“What I’m try­ing to get out of these events is more knowl­edge so that we can pass it on to our cus­tomers,” he said.

“Ev­ery three months we’re chang­ing what we’re do­ing be­hind the ma­chine, try­ing to be the best we pos­si­bly can be.”

While he still en­joys them, Will said it was get­ting harder to take part in com­pe­ti­tions.

“I don’t know if I can in­vest the time and the money into it again, it’s so drain­ing,” he said.

“I would like to com­pete again but I think I’ll just stick to the fun com­pe­ti­tions rather than the su­per se­ri­ous ones.”

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