Welcome to the fifth instalment (of six) in my Saturday Supplement series covering the 2014 London Coffee Festival, which took place last month at the Old Truman Brewery on Brick Lane. If you’ve stumbled upon this for the first time and want to know what you’ve missed, instalments one to four have been a general round-up, and reports on Cups, Kit and Food. Today it’s the turn of the various competitions.
In my head, I collectively refer to these as the UKBCs, or, to use the full title, the United Kingdom Barista Championships. However, that’s fairly sloppy shorthand on my behalf, since there are a number of competitions, the UKBCs being just one. The others include Latte Art, Coffee in Good Spirits, the Brewers Cup and the Ibrik Competition. I caught a number of these over the course of the weekend, culminating in the finals of the UKBCs on Sunday.
My advice, if you want to watch any of the competitions, is the same as last year: get there early and a bag a seat at the front. It’s either that or watch the action on the overhead monitors since the actual competitor is usually surrounded by a media scrum!
You can see exactly which competitions I saw after the gallery.
The first competition I caught was Coffee in Good Spirits, the art of mixing coffee and alcohol. My main reason for going was to support my friend Kate Beard (aka A Southern Belle in London) who was competing for the very first time. Competitors had to make two drinks: an Irish Coffee and a signature drink of their own devising. I also had an additional interest in the competition: I supplied the cream Kate used in her Irish Coffee!
I have fairly strong opinions on putting things in my coffee, particularly alcohol, which I am not very fond of to start with! However, over the last year, my opinions have slowly started to change. First of all, at last year’s Coffee Festival, Lisa, from Dear Green Coffee, made me her take on the traditional Italian caffè corretto. This was espresso with a touch of honey and whisky and it was lovely. Then there’s my local, Bar des Arts, who make a really mean espresso martini, which I have started to get a taste for. So, I was keen to see what Kate would rustle up.
Kate, who is from Alabama, dedicated her Irish Coffee to her father, whose birthday it was that week. As well as the cream I bought, she used her father’s favourite bourbon, Woodford Reserve, and, for sugar, she substituted molasses, because, in Kate’s words “they’re both Southern”. Kate’s signature drink was the Coffee-groni: equal measures of Campari, gin and Notes Mahembe espresso. She also used the Notes Mahembe for the Irish Southern Coffee, but made through the V60.
As a first-time performance, I thought Kate was excellent, with good, clear explanations of what she was doing (competitors are required to give a running commentary to the judges). She admitted afterwards that she was a bundle of nerves and forgot to mention half the things she’d planned to say, but from where I was sitting in the audience, she came across as very assured.
I got to try both of Kate’s drinks after the competition and I was very impressed. The Irish Coffee was particularly rich, the cream (even though I say so myself) really making the drink. I wasn’t expecting to like the Coffee-groni, but that too was excellent, a real triumph given my feelings on mixing alcohol and coffee!
Kate finished a very creditable fourth in her first ever competition, just missing out on third place, while the winner was David Jameson of Union Hand-roasted.
The Ibrik is a traditional method of making coffee that is associated in my head with Turkey, but which is in widespread use throughout the Middle-east and Eastern Europe. I was particularly interested in this competition since I had met one of the entrants, Vadim Granovskiy, a few days before at a London Coffee Stops Awards event organised by Chris Ward. I was fascinated by his presentation at the event and was keen to see how he performed in the competition. As it turned out, he won!
I managed to catch Vadim’s entire performance as well as that of Gwilym Davies, who finished third. Regular readers will be pleased to learn, that I both recognised Gwilym and didn’t fall over him!
Honestly, I would like to tell you more about the Ibrik and the performances, but really, I am compete neophyte and so really can’t shed too much light on the proceedings. I was, however, fascinated by the spectacle of the whole process and would like to learn more. For those who know even less than me, I can tell you that the Ibrik is traditional a copper pot with a long handle and a pouring lip. The ground coffee and water are mixed in the pot and heated over a flame (or, these days, a hot plate; although in Vadim’s case, it was a copper pot full of what I believe was hot sand!).
Ibriks come in either right-handed or left-handed versions, depending on which side of the pot the pouring lip is. Vadim had two of each so that he could pour out two cups simultaneously, one from each hand!
The last of the competitions that I caught was finals of the UK Barista Championships. I fulfilled a long-standing promise to go along and support Joe Meagher of Flat Caps Coffee on Sunday afternoon. I got there early and ensured I got a front row seat so I could get a good look at the action. Joe had set up what I can only describe as a chemistry set for his signature drink,
All the competitors had to make espresso, cappuccino and a signature drink, making four of each for the four judges, all to a tight time-limit. For the different drinks, Joe used the same bean, loayza from Bolivia, roasted by Has Bean, but with different processing methods (this is how the fruit of the coffee plant is treated in order to extract the green bean). For the espresso and his signature drink, he used a washed coffee, while for the cappuccino he used a naturally-processed coffee.
Joe’s signature drink was a cold coffee connection. He started off making a honey soda, cascara reduction and malto dextrin solution on stage, pouring them through a graham condenser (which, in my head, will always be a see-through helter-skelter) to stabilise their temperature. He then put 15g of this mixture in each glass, poured in espresso through a tea-strainer holding grated chocolate and then sprayed each glass with cold-brew he had previously made with the naturally-processed coffee.
I didn’t get a chance to sample it, but Joe assures me that it was very, very nice! I really enjoyed the spectacle of the whole process, particularly the reduction/solution mix whizzing down the helter-skelter graham condenser! It was all very well done and I thought Joe was very assured and polished. He eventually finished fifth, with Maxwell Colonna Dashwood, of Colonna & Small’s, finishing in first place. If you want to see who finished where in all of the competitions, check out the UK SCAE news page.
If you want to learn more about the London Coffee Festival, you can read what some of my fellow-bloggers made of it:
- there’s Gulia’s report on mondomulia
- new blogger, Freshly Brewed Cup, presents Part 1 and Part 2 of a review
- while old friend liquidjolt has a written a piece on Make Decent Coffee
- Cups of Coffee London has a picture gallery
- and there’s even coverage from Holland and The Coffee Vine (who also covered the Amsterdam Coffee Festival which I wasn’t able to go to)!
|15 HANBURY STREET • THE OLD TRUMAN BREWERY • LONDON • E1 6QR|
|Thursday||10:00 – 17:00 (Industry only)|
|Friday||10:00 – 17:00 (Industry only)|
|17:00 – 20:00 (Evening Session)|
|20:00 – 22:00 (Launch Party)|
|Saturday||10:00 – 13:00 (Brunch Session)|
|13:00 – 16:00 (Lunch Session)|
|16:00 – 19:00 (Teatime Session)|
|Sunday||10:00 – 13:00 (Brunch Session)|
|13:00 – 16:00 (Lunch Session)|
|16:00 – 19:00 (Teatime Session)|
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