During the 2022 National Coffee Championships hosted by SCA’s Greek branch as part of, Stathis Koremtas was crowned the first-place champion, and George Delichristos took second. The third place award, however, came with a surprise – a psychologist by profession, first-time entrant Serafim Zoukas shocked everyone when he claimed the prize.
Though SCA regulations do not prevent amateur participation in competitions, this was the first time an amateur had seen such success. Serafim Zoukas had guidance from Greece’s two times National Barista champion, Nikos Antzaras who helped him prepare for the competition but ultimately it was his love for brewing specialty filter coffee that brought him on the stage.
“I fell in love with specialty coffee so I started brewing coffee at home. My daily job has nothing to do with coffee though I’m a psychologist and teaching at school. I devote my afternoons to private practice as a therapist. So you can say that the “I’M NOT A BARISTA” phrase resonates with me.”
When neither Stathis or Giorgios, two names with much more competition experience behind them, could represent Greece on the world stage due to personal reasons, Serafim was the natural choice for the country. A mere two months before the 2022 Brewers Cup Finals in Melbourne, Serafim got the call-up and so began the rigorous training for this new challenge.
“When I got the call I was so surprised! Then I thought “wow, this is what you’ve been working for. Now it’s time to give it your all and prepare.” So that’s what I did. Although being in Melbourne around all these coffee professionals I looked up to made me feel like a kid in a candy store. At times, it was hard to concentrate on what I had to do.”
Coffee has always been a part of Serafim‘s life from a very young age. And it couldn’t be any different since he was born and raised in Greece, a country known for its coffee culture. From frappe and ibrik coffee to filter and freddo, Greeks consume coffee in all its forms. But it was Serafim‘s passion for filter coffees that ignited his competitive streak. He started to experiment with different brewing methods and coffee beans, determined to get the best result he possibly could.
“I wanted to challenge myself and go beyond my profession. Sure, I am a psychologist but is that the only thing that defines me? I wanted to also show my seven-year-old daughter that you can. Do what you love and pursue your passions no matter what they are.”
While putting his presentation for the national championship together, Serafim tried to find common themes between coffee and his profession.
“During therapy sessions, I focus on getting to know who I’m working with, paying attention to the setting, and being mindful of the stories people tell me. When it comes to coffee, this translates to understanding the origin, process, brewing variables and flavor profile to create a unique experience.”
Serafim‘s journey makes us all wonder if SCA competitions are a bit limiting when it comes to home brewers and amateurs competing with professionals. On one hand, it is the passion for coffee that drives these amateurs to compete; on the other hand, it is their lack of access to resources and training opportunities that prevents them. Serafim received some support from SCA Greece and the roasting company whose coffee he used, but a lot of equipment was self-funded. However, he prefers being an independent competitor.
“Competing for a company puts more pressure on the individual than competing for oneself, as you have to ask yourself not only why you are competing, but also who you are doing it for. It becomes a game of companies. Will that same company continue to support you even if you fail? It’s definitely something to think about”.
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This is only the start of Serafim‘s journey in competitions and he is determined to keep improving his techniques. He believes that with a strong support system, anything is possible – even for an amateur home brewer like himself. He has definitely proved that you don’t have to be a coffee professional to make an amazing cup of coffee. Specialty coffee can be brewed by anyone with the right passion, determination, and access to resources.
To all you home-brewers out there, Serafim Zoukas is open to chat and provide insights on his brewing journey. Just reach out to him on Instagram. We wish Serafim all the best on his journey ahead and can’t wait to see him win more awards in the future!