Yesterday I spent a fantastic day at the Tobacco Factory in Bristol at the Beyond the Bean Barista Jam, a precursor to the 2008 UK Barista Championships which will be starting very soon, see previous posts. A star-studded line up of current, ex competitors, judges and sponsors were all in attendance to offer words of advise and support to the 25 potential competitors in attendance.The day started quite a bit earlier for a few of us who had traveled quite a distance to attend, notably Graeme and Sé who had flown in from Northern Ireland, and after our well needed caffeine hit and a complementary Danish it we were straight in to the welcome session.
We were welcomed by Helen from Beyond the Bean and given our name tags and asked to assemble in the working are for a presentation by Sé Gorman and Ed Buston (2nd and 3rd last year). They took us through Ed’s 2007 presentation and critically analyzed it with Ed making deliberate mistakes to highlight the importance of each element in the judges scoring. Sé told us some of the disastrous things that have happened to competitors in previous years including his own of forgetting his jugs which broke the ice and made everyone feel more relaxed. After they had completed their presentation we split into 3 groups to discuss smaller parts of competing in greater detail, judging, espresso and cappuccino.
Judges with WBC judge Jeremy Regan
(Jeremy going through the Judges Score sheets)
This session was aimed at looking through the sensory and technical score sheets in detail from a judge’s perspective. I found it extremely valuable as I had taken everything at face value when I read the sheets a few months back, letter of the law I suppose. It was great to see the judges interpretation of them and of which parts effected each other and those that didn’t. Thoroughly worth while!
Espresso with Ed Buston
(A multitude of La Spaz portafilters and tampers)
This session was based on distribution and tamping with extreme highlighting on the consistency of it. Judges want to see consistent tamping and apparently they have little systems of symbols they use to represent your distribution and tamp style to see if it is accurately replicated through all the espresso shots in the performance. News to me but it makes sense I suppose. Ed also explained the theory of the distribution and tamp to us all skillfully avoiding prescribing a best technique. Again it was very helpful, cheers Ed.
Cappuccino with Sé Gorman
(Sé going though Cappuccino scoring with Will and the group)
I’ve wanted to meet Sé for a while now and I’m very glad I did. He has a wealth of knowledge and is a fantastically nice chap. He came up with probably the most valuable information of the day as he went through cappuccino production. Cappuccino holds the least amount of scoring on the sensory score cards but the routines you set up while doing cappuccino can make you or break you. Deciding which order you serve you drinks in is vital to you chances and Sé gave us some great pointers to set us on our way. He also highlighted how much better a café can get and how much staff, owners and employees will learn from competition. ‘The best learning experience of your life’, I think he said.
We then had a little chin wag over some cheesy baguettes and some cappuccinos. I managed to have a good chat to some roasters who were local to Bristol over lunch before we split into 2 groups for the afternoon.
‘Blending and Roasting’- Blind Cupping with Peter James and Jim Hoffmann
(Peter, Sé and James at the cupping table)
A fun little here with 8 coffees ordered on the makeshift cupping table by Peter James from James Gourmet. A mixed bag of British roasted coffees, some supermarket, some micro roasters, some pre-ground, a single origin and a single estate coffee. Luckily for me I spotted the single estate and the single origin which were pretty darn tasty and picked out the pre ground without much hassle.
Signature Drinks mess around
(Robin deep in thought)
I think due to the over running of the previous group and the mess they had made our signature drink session was a bit of a free for all. I tried some milky cumin mix with the Clifton espresso which wasn’t undrinkable but I wasn’t really getting into it as there were too many people for each machine and I ended up trading latte art secrets with Will and Robin who reassuringly both had latte art on as their phone backgrounds, I am not alone!!!!
Having never been to a Jam I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the day but I was pleasantly surprised and learnt a lot about competition.
Things that could have maybe made it an even more enjoyable day than it was:
More espresso machines or a better machine to Jammer ratio, perhaps a bit more time on signature drinks and maybe some stuff about flavour paring.
More time to chat to other guys maybe a drinks party afterwards to get to know each other. I know the B the B guys would like that!
Despite all the coffee fun yesterday the star of the show in everyone eyes was defiantly this device we found in the gents toilets:
Many thanks to:
Helen, Jonathan and Matt from Beyond The Bean
Steve Penk from La Spaziale/SCAE
Sé Gorman from Cafe Krem
WBC Judge Jeremy Regan
James Hoffmann from ‘Square Mile Coffee Roasters’
Ed Buston from Clifton Coffee
Peter James from James Gourmet
Find Jim Hoffmann’s blog post on the event here
Beyond the bean review here