What did you do this weekend? In all likelihood you were outside soaking up the start of spring. Some were watching Old Hornhead in Netflix’s uncompromising, compelling Daredevil. Many zealots were following the beginning of the end of the Premier League season, whilst others watched as a 21 year old won The Masters. What were the fanatical barista community doing? Well, they were sitting on a far-flung corner of the internet watching the finals of the World Barista Championship until the wee small hours.
In my previous blog I detailed the format of the competition that entered its final stage last week.
The UK finals were held in March in the beautiful surrounds of Glasgow (what a city!) where our entrant Jimmy Dimitrov from our Gloucester Road cafe came 16th, a great achievement for his rookie year. The winner, Maxell Colonna-Dashwood of Colonna Smalls in Bath went to the world finals that kicked off on Friday in the American spiritual home of coffee shops (& Frasier), Seattle.
Some 49 countries were represented, including (for only the second time) Iran. The UK have a decent track record having had 2 winners in the history of this annual competition & Mr Colonna-Dashwood has reached the final 6 twice before, so confidence was high that the UK would be well represented.
Once the competition reaches these stages it really is an exploration of what espresso is, where it comes from, how it is processed and the way in which we deliver it to the customer. People’s presentations make you reconsider what you thought you knew about the industry, and as they won each of their country’s battles, their delivery and technique were slick, with some competitors having prepared for over 300 hours! Saturdays session saw the 49 entrants whittled down to the final six who duked it out for the top prize on Sunday.
The content covered by these final 6 included: removing unwanted flavours by putting their espresso in a vacuum sealer, sous vide roasting their coffee for a second time to encourage sweetness in their shot, working with the farmers that grew their coffee to process coffee cherries in a similar way to wine or cheekily deconstructing the format of the competition itself. Each presentation showed just how far people go in the pursuit of the perfect espresso. All this of course makes me think that this is an awful lot of effort to make espresso more palatable!
And so at 1am GMT, as the weekend caught up with everyone, 900 supporters around the world were logged into the streaming site and a packed auditorium held their breath as they counted down to the World Champion announcement. As the judges carefully totted up the results, the comment thread on the site was peppered with people from China, France, Australia, Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. giving shout outs to their champions. The winner was Sasa Sestic of Australia, their second ever winner. His slick presentation detailed how wine processing could positively influence coffee, from growing through to storing in stainless steel tanks with strict atmospheric controls, and so a new method of processing was born.
This year sees the inaugural Coffee Masters competition at the London Coffee Festival, a very different event, more like a decathlon of coffee, testing professionals approach to all aspects of the industry. This will be the first time that an alternative national competition has been launched, prompting the UKBC to change their format for next year to stay relevant. Ultimately the consumer benefits, these explorations filter down to our cafes and get us to think about all aspects of what we do as an industry striving for the best cup of coffee.
Speaking of the London Coffee Festival, we will have a stall on the True Artisan Coffee bar, where Wes and Amy will be serving our BTP House Blend and a tweak on Jimmy’s UKBC signature drink, so if you’re at the festival on Saturday 2nd May, drop in and say hi, we’ll be serving Cascara Espresso Mojitos from 10am until 1pm.
Photo credit to SprudgeLive