UK Barista Championship finals, Smackdown and New Friends

Hello everyone. Sorry I’ve been a bit quiet of late my attentions have been somewhat skewed due to my entry into the UK Barista Championships Finals last week.

First of all Congratulations to Hugo Hercod of Relish who was a deserved winner of the title ‘UK Barista Champion’

Good Luck in Copenhagen

I’m delighted to tell you that I finished 14th with my first attempt and indeed first finals of a coffee competition.

I have learnt so much in entering the UKBC that I can hardly recognise the person who started the journey 8 months ago. If you are thinking about entering next year, DO IT. I’ve made some great new friends, pulled some great shots and made some horrible signature drink combinations which turned the stomachs of many of my friends. I can’t recommend it enough.

The Championships were set in amongst the hustle and bustle of Hotelympia at Exel near Canary Warf in London. The SCAE had a fantastic little corner set up with staging and workshops surrounded by a multitude of café related stands, espresso machine suppliers and scantily clad cake stalls!

24 competitors were whittled down to 6 over 2 days. Unfortunately, this included myself which I was initially a bit peeved at. I think the emotion of the event got to me a bit and with hindsight my placing was correct if not a little high. The competition this year was apparently of a lot higher standard than last year and competitors were just not making the technical mistakes that they have done in previous competitions. Great news for the industry! We are defiantly making some inroads. This competition, thanks to ‘The Hoff’, SCAE and sponsors is defiantly getting some weight now.

A great big thank you to everyone who was involved!

One thing I would recommend which would (in my opinion) create more interest and give the general viewing public a little bit more insight into the passion and dedication of the barista is to mic up the competitors. Speaking from a spectator’s point of view the only interesting part of each performance was the pretty table set up and the fantastically knowledgeable compares who took us through what they managed to hear of each performance. A set of radio mics can’t be that hard to get a hold of, can they? Maybe a little bit of a better back stage area for competitors to store and prepare all their kit before, during and after their performances. I know there was a little bit of grumbling about that.

They are the only little niggles from the three days and I only mention them in the pursuit of pushing the Championships forward over the coming years. Just because people are volunteering to organise UKBC doesn’t mean that they should be immune to any criticism or not take any advice. Having said that, everyone who was involved did a fantastic job and it all went very well.

After the Semis we all had an opportunity to let ‘what hair we had left’ down at Square Mile Coffee Roasters in Bethnal Green. The home of Anette, Steven and James’s new venture played host to the UKBC Barista Party. A charity Latte art Smackdown inevitably raised it’s ugly head and I duly choked under the pressure of the ‘whooping’ crowd. See here (Thank you very much Tristan, you swine).

[livevideo id=B08A22DC3C8D422BB80365A820B3D1AA]

Thank you to everyone I finally met down there. It’s always a bit funny meeting people who you’ve only had ‘cyber’ relations with, the mutual recognition of Hugo and I on the first day was testament to this. Special thanks to Tristan, Will, Lance, Jonathan, Barry, Helen and Matt who have all become good mates over the last few months. Thanks for making this such a fantastic event for me. I have every intention of competing again next year and indeed for several years into the future as I really want to represent the country on the ‘World Stage’.

Before I finish I must thank my family and Pumphreys Coffee for their support over the past few months. Paula, Stuart, Malcolm, Georgie and Jill, thanks for the support and for putting up with my moods. Above all thanks to my beautiful girlfriend Lorna, without whom I’d have been lost at the competition.

To finish, a little bit of a tease:

I have heard rumblings of a barista ‘boot camp’ weekend which I cant see myself missing, more information will follow here soon I’m sure.

Thanks for reading


7 thoughts on “UK Barista Championship finals, Smackdown and New Friends

  1. Hi stuart,
    nice post mate, your enthusiasm for theUKBC’s is catching i think, and with people like yourself, Tristan, will, lance, lauren, sindy ed, barry, elliot. subi, etc…..( the list goes on and on)
    The barista culture is strong and the competiton can only get better.

    of course, you still have no chance of getting me to enter!

    catch up wih you soon mate.


  2. Great post mate, I just can’t get my mind off it all though! I sat in the office this morning and made myself a cap with some reasonable latte art on it and pondered whether the out of body experience that i was having had quite reached the judges at the semi’s. I guess not, for that truly would have got me to the finals! I shall have to practice getting that into the cup more often!
    Glad to hear your happy mate, you were outstanding!
    Here’s looking forward to next year, the practice starts now! And the experimentation I don’t think I will ever see friends again without trying something new and ‘tasty’ out on them lol!
    How’s the back?

  3. Love the posting. 14th is an amazing effort. I should know as I worked my butt off to get 19th. 14th shows that you have the potential to break into the top 6 for next year.

    I was amazing to see the release of tension at the Barista party as most of us could finally relax after being so stressed.
    It was fun meeting up with so many like minded people and chewing the fat.

    anyone got any wild ideas for a 2009 signature drink?

  4. I’m pretty sure your post sums up how many of us feel Stuart! Really glad I didn’t miss the party at Square Mile as it gave me a chance to finally meet and chat to a few more baristas – Lance, Subi, Neli, Marius. Already good mates with Ben and would love to get to know all the other regulars on the scene – yourself, Ed, Wills, Tristan etc. This was my second year entering and was a bit miffed at coming in 12th, but rightfully so – my sig drink left a lot to be desired, need to go out on a limb next time, might skip the garlic though…
    Please keep on blogging, it’s the only other way us overworked (or lazy) baristas get to know other peoples opinions! Keep us in the loop about the boot camp 😉

  5. I’ve just come across your site while looking for Latte Art experts Stuart and it totally distracted me from my task !

    I congratulate you on an excellent blog for both the Bristol events and the Championship at Hotelympia ~ you’ve put a huge amount of work into it.

    You comments about the storage and practice rooms at the final are well founded and will be addressed next time and the same applies to the competitors being miked (micced ?) up. We had the mikes but the problem, according to the Hotelympia less than helpful technicians, was that we were likely to get inteference from the chefs performing down the hall. The other thing which we should have had but didn’t materialise was a proper AV system ~ again we were let down.

    We learn more from each event we organise but, unfortunately, a lot of it is out of our hands when we are at these big events. Your and your readers comments / criticisms / ideas are of help and interest to the Committee so please keep them coming. We don’t guarantee to get everything right but we do our best !

    I am really pleased to see the comraderie which is created by these events since this is part of what we are trying to foster amaong the UK baristas ~ the more you exchange ideas the more you will learn and, even more important, is the friendships that develop.

    I think we have a great bunch of you young guys out there and I am pleased to play a small part in helping things along ~ as well as helping keep an old fart like me feeling younger !

    I’m off to Beirut now to judge the Lebanese Championship ~ the guys out there are really keen and will provide some serious opposition, they came 3rd in the ETCC in Moscow and 1st in the Mediteranean Team Challenge.

    A final plea to you and your readers ~ we have the Latte Art, Coffee in Good Spirits and Cup Tasting comps. at Caffe Culture on 21/22 May. PLEASE get your names down with Paul Meikle-Janney ~ there’s no entry charge and, if you win, you get an all expenses to Copenhagen for the World Championships in June !

    Thanks again for a really interesting blog Stuart and grat photos.

    All the best, John.

    John L. Sherwood
    Executive Coordinator UKBC

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