I’ve never thought that coffee can be a science. Since I’m around people working in specialty coffee, I know that it’s not only an own science, it’s an own universe. The Australian and most of his friends are baristas and work for specialty coffee shops. Obviously I learned to appreciate good coffee and I kind of taste the difference. But still, it sometimes is a mystery to me what they are talking about. When you want to brew coffee you have to consider the consistency of the water, the texture of the ground coffee, the way of pouring water and so on.
Therefore it’s no wonder, that there is a competition for baristas to demonstrate their skills. In the UK it’s organised by the UK Chapter of the Specialty Coffee Association of Europe (SCAE). This is an association to spread the idea and knowledge of specialty coffee. There are trainings to attend, different championships to compete in, but the most it’s about sharing good coffee. And it really is great coffee. The Australian showed me some places and cafes which I can honestly recommend, even for nonprofessionals. The coffee they do and the way they do it will change your mind about coffee and its consumption. I remember myself at the beginning, when I got to know the Australian and his friends. For me coffee was an energizer in the morning to get awake and I insisted on hating filter coffee. After trying different filters and finding my favourite bean I even order filter coffee on my own. Some of these nice cafes amongst others are The Peanut Vendor – our Sunday ritual with lovely staff and the best avocado on toast – Prufrock Coffee – a nice oasis in Leather Lane, offers a wide spectrum of different trainings – and of course Taylor St Baristas – lovely staff and several branches spreaded around London (one opens in New York next month), unfortunately only Mon-Fri.
The competition the Australian participated in is split into 4 days of regional heats, then there are the semi finals and of course the finals. The winner of the finals will represent the UK in the World Barista Championship. The Australian was competing on the first day, on the 17th February. He had 15 mins to show, what skills he has as a Barista. He had to present his chosen coffee as espresso, as a milk-based drink and as his self-developed signature drink. In the meantime he had to explain his choice of the milk-based drink and the signature drink as well as the flavours and aromas of the drinks. To prepare we started early and invested lots of time, money and passion.
The registratin for the UKBC was in mid December 2015. The Australian didn’t start to practice from the very beginning, the preparation time was parted into three phases. At first the planning phase, in which he read all the rules, decided on the coffee and thought on possible milk-based drinks and signature drinks. The second phase was the trial time. He spent days at St. Pauls (there is a branch with the same grinder as used for the competition) to figure out the right date of the roasting (best 7-9 days before), the best texture of the ground coffee, the right extraction, the milk-based drink which pleased most the flavours of the coffee and of course the signature drink. Luckily lots of friends helped him through this , I would say the most difficult, time and tried his ideas or even had some inspirations. And at last the final phase. Rehearsals, organizing all the equipment and not getting crazy. Unfortunately I couldn’t always be as supporting as I wished to. Me myself, I’m not a mentally stabled person when it comes up to stress and competitions.
And then the big day had come. All the preparation and the work beforehand for 15 mins to fuck it up or to rock it. The location was Timberyard, voted as Europe’s best independet coffee shop. It has a big room in the basement where all had been set up nicely for the UKBC. There was the big stage with the judges’ table, the table with the coffee machine and a table for preparing the signature drink. The whole stage was filmed by two cameras, and the filmed scenes were directly shown on two big screens. In front of the stage there were several rows of chairs for the audience. On the first day of the London heats competed three Baristas from Taylor St, also called the Taylor St Collective. The Australian was the second last to start and he was nervous through the whole day. But he presented a very good performance despite some little hick-ups. For example putting the jug with the pistachio-milk for his signature drink in a freezer instead of a fridge or forgetting to pour water into the judges glasses. At least he could make a joke out of it and I think the judges didn’t laugh that much through the whole competition as during his presentation. Afterwards we were just happy that it was over and we felt a big stress relief.
More pictures on: London through an objective lens #2