We sent Charley Pope – Boston Tea Party barista and wordsmith extraordinaire – to her first UK Barista Champs to get the lowdown on badass beards, the latest tech and, um, coffee
Entering Paintworks on a wet and windy Wednesday, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were attending a cooking demonstration, not the Bristol heat of the UK Barista Championships. Neatly lined bars, polished utensils and a large projector screen suggest that we’re going to be greeted by a manicured host creating step-by-step beef wellington perfection; however groomed beards, quaffed hair and polished brown leather boots in the audience let on that this is a whole other kettle of fish – coffee to be precise.
Like the new girl at school, I felt a bit out of my depth to begin with. These baristas were experts of their craft, primed to show off their talents, whereas all I’d done was dabble with a little latte art at Boston’s in Barnstaple. However, after watching a few of the competitors work their magic, it became slightly more familiar territory.
Signalling for their music playlist to begin, each competitor’s 15 minutes to prepare four espressos, four milk-based drinks and four espresso based, non-alcoholic speciality drinks would begin. Explaining the origin and process of the coffee, what flavours to expect from each drink and each part of the process from start to finish, the baristas were impressively slick, you could feel the hours of rehearsals after shop had shut up coming into play.
One of my favourites at the Bristol heats came from Clifton Coffee Roasters’ Josh Clarke – a blood orange and rosemary cold brew signature drink. Attempting to channel a gin and tonic vibe, this intriguing concoction was delightfully boozy despite the lack of alcohol (a few of these would go down delightfully well on a hot summer’s day.) Another standout entry came from Boston Tea Party’s Note Miolet, a signature drink that had notes of warming cinnamon and vanilla – think liquid tiramisu.
The entire day was pretty intense but immensely interesting, and a great insight into how comprehensive the coffee world is. Find more information on the upcoming semi-finals and finals taking place at the London Coffee Festival in April here.