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My UK Barista Championship Experience by Kris

  • 4 min read

Competing in a national barista competition is the single most rewarding and equally terrifying thing you can do. Your brain tells you you shouldn't because of the impending stress, yet somehow you convince yourself that everything will be ok. It's an undertaking in itself to put a UK Barista Championship routine together, but to put one together with two weeks notice was an incredible feat. 

The Inspiration

From the outset I was committed to presenting a routine that had been living in my head for the past few years, with a focus on the disconnect between environmental innovation at farm level and the innovations that we are making at our end of the supply chain. The current model is not sustainable. Coffee producers fight on the front lines of a climate crisis caused by our actions, yet it is at farm level where the true innovation and planning for the future is taking place. 

The Coffee

Daterra Farm is the perfect example of how new systems and process are being put in place to cope with the every changing effects of climate change. From dedicating 3250 hectares of their land to environmental conservation to creating sustainable packaging solution to combat waste in the green coffee supply chain, not to mention creating renewable energy resources through solar farming. Alongside this, they also faced a huge irrigation problem due to increasing temperatures and decreasing rainfall. Their solution was to create their own reservoir through water conservation that now irrigates 70% of their farm. The coffee itself is made up of two separate varietals, Laurina & Aramosa. Both cultivars have been under study at Daterra Farm for the past 20 years and are now fully adapted to their terroir. Laurina is a wild coffee species, first discovered on Reunion Island. It is sought after due to its low caffeine properties but also pretty rare thanks to the specific environmental conditions it requires to grow. Aramosa is a hybrid varietal made up of Coffea Arabica & Coffee Racemosa. It was created to take the low caffeine & drought resistance characteristics from Racemosa, but maintain the flavour profile that Arabica brings. The processing method used is the tree dried process, or as it is more commonly known, the Cerrado process. This involves extending the maturation of the cherry by allowing it to dry on the tree, before picking and processing as a traditional pulped natural. Although Laurina is characteristically quite a floral varietal, the process adds layers of complexity including increased body and sweetness. The result is a coffee which scored an incredible 89 specialty coffee points.

The Preparation

No amount of preparation can ever prepare you for the experience of getting on that stage, but that's not to say that I didn't prepare. Many late nights, early mornings, repeating my routine over in my head and out loud. I think it even got to the point that my daughter could have recited my routine for me. I think it's fair to say that by the time the event rolled around, it had become an obsession. 

The Competition 

On the day of the competition I was relatively calm. The preparation had been done, the coffee was ready, and everything was good to go. I arrived around an hour early and got used to my surroundings at the venue, the stunning St Lukes venue. Before I knew it, it was time to begin my practice time. The thing is, you think half an hour is a long time, but in that scenario it really is no time at all. From the start of my dial-in I was already getting quite frustrated. I had almost maxed out the coarseness of the grinder before even getting a shot to extract. Once I found the right coarseness we were flying. The coffee tasted absolutely sensational during the dialling-in process, and I was feeling confident. 

Set-up time! I felt strangely calm during the set-up process. I uploaded my cart and set everything up, the same way I had during my practice run-throughs. At this point I was ready! The judges arrived and before I knew it, it was time to begin. I started my presentation and things were going well. A few stumbled words but nothing that I couldn't overcome. Then it was time to make the coffee. Problem one. My scale decided at this point, after around 20 run throughs, that it would choose this very moment to crash. Unfortunately it would transpire that none of my espressos pulled the same as the dial-in I was happy with before my routine. This is unfortunately a part of competing. Now, let's talk about the shakes. Wow! I don't think I have ever shaken that much in my life, not even when I got married. This is something I hope to get a handle on before next year. For the rest of the routine I was just going through the motions. The result was a score of 212. This may not seem that high, but to break 200 is a huge achievement and I'm super proud of myself for that.

Wrapping it All Up

After 8 years, it was a massive thing for me to get back on that stage and perform again. I want to say a huge thank you to all the volunteers at the SCA UK for making these competitions possible. A big thank you also goes out to Jack and the team at DRWakefield for taking the time to give me all the information I needed to present the coffee. I'd also like to thank Daterra Farm, not only for producing an incredible coffee, but also for the work environmental work they are doing at origin. Thanks also go to Minor Figures for all the support. 

The biggest thank you of all goes out to the incredible team that I get to work with every single day. Your passion, encouragement and support is the reason I was able to get back up there and perform. I appreciate every single one of you. 

I'll see you back on that stage again in 2024!


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