Q&A with Ben Put, Barista Champion and Co-Owner of Monogram Coffee
Ben Put, Co-Owner of Monogram Coffee, has been crowned Canadian National Barista Champion six times. We chatted with Put to learn about what it takes to be a six-time champion and if he plans to compete again.
- What was your vision when you decided to open Monogram?
I think what has kept us in specialty coffee is the sort of wonder side of coffee. What we mean by that is when you taste something and you experience coffee in a way that makes you reconsider coffee and dive in. Our big thing is to share that excitement for exciting coffees but also realize that coffee has a connection to fond memories, whether childhood memories or just the comforting side of coffee. We want to cultivate both experiences.
- What first got you interested in competing?
My first experience with competition was when Phil, the Co-Owner of Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters, competed. I can’t even say I was his coach. I was just a glorified dishwasher, but they were nice enough to call me the coach. But seeing him compete and his process was inspiring. I started to compete the year after that, and for the next few years. It sort of became, I would say, a healthy obsession, but an obsession on how to make coffee better.
- What is your process for preparing for a competition like?
I have a philosophy that you should never stop competing. So, 24/7, 365, I’m always thinking about competition. The first thing you need to consider is what you want to discuss. You can cover anything you want as long as it is related to coffee. And so I’m always looking for any new ideas.
- What was a memorable performance for you?
The thing that I’m most known for is freeze-distilled milk. That is where you are freezing milk and then slowly thawing it so it is distilled. During that thawing process, the sugars and salts will melt first, so you end up with a much sweeter milk. This technique has been adopted almost globally.
- Will you be competing again next year?
This year was going to be my last year. I’ve competed for a really long time. And I think everyone has a shelf life before they’re too old. But after what happened on stage this year... I haven’t talked about it too much, but I had three out of four pieces of my equipment malfunction in the last round I competed in. And so it’s sort of a weird way to go out. So I’m looking at competing again just to make sure if I’m going to retire, I’d love to retire on a set where things sort of went the way I wanted them to.