Sunday, May 28, 2006

World Latte Art Championship

Found this on flickr today, if you don't recognise the cupalready, this is a pic of Arthur competing in the World Latte Art Competition. Nice shot I think.

The rest of the photos are from the same flickr account (American Barista & Coffee School), and show Arthur competing in The World Coffee in Good Spirits Competition.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Buzz, training, photos

I'd a good day today. My orchestration exam went just swimmingly, and so I headed out to see Buzz in Donnybrook Fair with my friend Susan for lunch. Buzz has recently changed coffee supplier and is now using an espresso blend by Londonbased UnionCoffee Roasters. After a gorgeous lunch (blue cheese and pear topped with rocket, poached egg, black pudding and mustard dressing), I ordered an espresso. I knew Buzz was excited about the new blend and he'd mentioned it was a hit with his customers too,so I was eager to taste it. And what was it like? I've never had such a hit of dark chocolate from an espresso. Thinking of it now, I don't even recall much of a coffee taste, just waves of cocoa. He said it was a blend sourced solely from Rwanda which might suggest the solitary flavour profile, but regardless I have to say I really enjoyed it. It was possibly one of the best espresso's I've been served in Dublin in quite a while. It was unsurprisingly great as a macchiato too I think its important to mention at this point, that I believe there's probably quite a lot of good coffee companies in Ireland, who don't recieve enough praise for their coffee. This however, is sadly often their own fault as many just don't put enough emphasis on training. The reason that Buzz's espresso was so good was because yes it was a good coffee to begin with, but mainly because Buzz knows how to serve great coffee. Hoffer (as I never call him except for right there) often makes a point of saying he doesn't make great coffee, rather he serves great coffee. There are a lot of different Irish roasters making great yet there is only a few cafes serving it. A stupid state of affairs. If every roaster in Ireland had one cafe that did their coffee justice, coffee culture in Dublin would be a lot more interesting. So what I'll do is, I'll head off to Vancouver for a few months, and the rest of you sort your game out. Reasonable? Perhaps, but not realistic. There was an article in a paper the other day about 25 crap things in Ireland (not the exact article title) and one thing it included was the low quality of coffee down the country. The article lamented on how the great coffee boom in Dublin wasn't through the isle. All I'll say is, I don't know how proud I'd be to say that rural towns have cafes serving coffee 'dublin style'. I feel like I moan a lot about this issue, and maybe I have good reason to, but until respectm especially financial respect is given to good barista's then things aren't gonna start changing for quite a while. A tired topic I know, but I needed to vent. My thanks for your time. In other news, I also caught up with Arthur again today, and as he's rarely online, I took all his photos from Bern and posted them on my flickr. Enjoy. ps: I'm getting very good at hyperlinks.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Vancouver on the horizon

After a refreshingly easy exam today, I had lunch with Arthur who was fresh off the plane from Bern. Once I got over the initial blast of jealousy, I got really excited and wanted to hear everything! He finally ended up entering three competions; the latte art, coffee and alcohol, and the cupping. As always in these comps, if things are ever gonna go wrong, they will on the day. Arthur seemed to suffer from some abrupt cases of invasivecamerameninyourfaceitus. Something I can recall from competing in Greece last year. Despite this, he is now a wbc certified judge and actually came 6th best in the sensory. Which considering the calibre of people involved is really an achievement in my books. Now you'll notice that my tone regarding Arthur so far is one of great admiration. Well, theres a reason. The kid did well;

He also got some stumptown coffee's that I can't wait to cup tomorrow. I've only got three more exams left and then a week before I leave for Vancouver. I'm just getting silly excited about it now. I've been living on craigslist trying to sort an apartment, but to no avail. I'm guessing I'll sort it when I arrive. I need to find some hard foam for my training case before I leave. You'd think that'd be easy but its proving difficult. Any help would be appreciated.

On another quick note, I ordered a capp after lunch today and got served this. It was a little bubbly, (due mainly to it being lunch time, table service and me sitting far away from machine) but its so easy to forget just how nice it is to get served a coffee of this standard. I don't mean to plug my own cafe, as that is not the purpose of this blog. So I won't.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

James Hoffmann UK WBC 2006 Finalist

Big congrats to Jim. I'm delighted for him, especially as he didn't think he'd made it after his performance. I really think he could win it if he does a good set. That said, I'm sure the same can be said for all the finalists. (the point of being a finalist)

Also, fair play to Karl Purdy! 15th Best Barista in the World! I'm so proud, especially as this puts Ireland way up in the top 20! Which is pretty cool considering our previous ranking.

Enjoy the rest of the show guys, and take lots of photos.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Some of you can't even spell digree.

Well you can all stop holding your beadth, my three hour style and interpretation exam went ok. But seriously, I just want to say a quick word to all those participating in Bern this week. Best of luck to the lot of you, and I just want to re iterate our previous conversations when I say please don't waste time in the middle of your competition performance wondering how my 19th century Composition exam went, or whether I'm lonely back in Dublin,. no, you just focus on the task at hand, bring me back as many goodies from Bern or face me holding you in low regard (see pic)oh, and do yourself justice. Meanwhile I'll continue with my college education. So Best of luck to everyone, but especially to Karl Purdy of Ireland, Arthur Wynne of Ireland (,...and Australia , oh and the Philippines, )and to Jim Hoffman of Macadonia.


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

cool isn't it

Originally uploaded by default espresso.
I saw this too when I should have been studying, but was chuffed to see one of my photos included. They be my beans in a circle. I used to have it as a disply on the retail counter but one too many young kids said otherwise. Pretty all the same. Cool poster though isn't it.

Monday, May 08, 2006

just lovely

Originally uploaded by dwelltimester.
was browsing flickr when I should have been studying, and found this. That right there is my latte art challenge this summer. If I can't do that after I get back from Vancouver, well you can slap me. (Not too hard mind, I bruise like a peach.)

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

the competition barista

I've spent a good bit of time recently helping Karl prepare for the WBC in Bern. We've been lucky enough to get a La Marzocco gb5 in to the training room, allowing us to get familiar with the competition machine of choice. Of course a good barista should be able to work off any machine but it's certainly no harm to get used to the feel of it. We spent most of Sunday and Monday morning tasting around 60 different ingredients looking for something that might add that extra spark to the signature drink. Since then though, I've been wondering which is the best way to go about developing a Competition Signature Drink. I'm not too sure whether the practical feasability of these drinks in working cafes is a crucial feature for the judges , or even whether it should be. Is practiality so important an issue that a competitor should feel restricted in his/her experimenting? Should they always be on the look out for new flavours or culinary techniques to adopt? Or should they first start with the coffee, and work from there? Is this good advice?

  • Find or develop an amazing espresso blend.
  • Make your technique flawless so you can show the judges just how special this coffee is.
  • Show the new flavours that come out when combined with the right amount of smooth textured milk.
  • After deciding what flavours are inherent in the cup, then develop a drink using ingredients that either further bring out the flavour profiles of the coffee or compliment them.

I kind of agree with this except that it is a barista competition, and not a coffee competition. So should I add 'be charming, clean and informative' to the list? I probably should. I worry though that there'll be a point in the future, where the machinery gets so advanced that all the brewing variables are controlled and the barista's role is more alike to a waiter's. Even if you ignore the machine side, is it fair to say that as barista education spreads, the standards will keep rising, and perhaps the margins of difference in barista skills will narrow and it will fall to the charm of the barista's personality to win, not their technique?

I know I'm looking very far ahead of what the reality is, and I think the bar can still be raised much much higher, but does anyone else think about this? I've heard it said before, but is it the role of a barista to be invisible and let the coffee shine? Ugh. I haven't a clue. Leave a comment, am I barmy? I hate exams.

all for now