So, I find myself appologising for an outage of service, again. This particular outage was in part caused by the annual distraction that is the UKBC (UK Barista Championship).
My entry this year was decided from the moment I finished my presentation at last years semi-finals. In the short few months preparing for the competition I had improved as a barista noticably and my focus and zeal for what I do had been energised beyond description. I focused from the moment I returned to be pushing myself to improve at every oppertunity and had set acheivements I wanted to accomplish in UKBC 2010.
These goals were postponed for a further 12 months after getting disqualified for going nearly 2 minutes over time. I have taken lessons from this and know where I made mistakes for next years performance. However my immediate instinct when I learned my time and realised that I had reached the end of my years competition early was that I wanted to get on stage again, feel those nerves and do the performance I wanted to jump up there and do it again.
A great frustration has been within me since this. Last year the 10 months between the 09 semis and the 2010 heats didn’t seem like such a gulf. Last year I was satisifed in my exposure and my performance. This year I’ve a list of things I wanted to do differently and things I wanted to do and failed to. Of course I have taken as much as I can from my performance score sheets but I feel a single snapshot is a poor reference to build from.
All this leads to, or stems from perhaps, the fact that a barista competition is a once a year event. A huge commendation to James and Anette at Square Mile Coffee for the monthly UBF which is a great amount of fun and a great way to get used to performing infront of people. It provides a great way to get used to pouring under pressure as it were. But there there are immutable differences and this is by no means a criticism of the UBF. They are afterall different animals.
Is there a true solution? I understand that the logistics of setting up the BC heats are huge and require a great deal of coordination between sponsers, judges, hosts, and competitors but I would like to see a ‘friendlies’ version of the competition, I.e follows the concept of the traditional competition but just done to keep baristas sharp and bring together ideas and community outside of Londons network of specialist shops/roasters/carts.
And while I’m on the subject of the concept of the competition I have a gripe with the idea of the signature drink. I do understand the reasoning behind the round. For an ‘outsider’ (which is who the BC is aimed at interesting) it is the most interesting part of the competition. But spectacle covers the fact that the best Signature beverage will rarely be as interesting as a truely amazing espresso. The competition is supposedly emulating the enviroment in a shop and thr judges are your customer… how often do you see tobacco infused cream with chocolate ganache used in a coffee shop?
Wouldn’t the third round be better used to show a different brewing method? Wouldn’t it be more interesting for, rather than the audience but the barista and judges,to have a chemex brewing or an aeropress or an EVA solo and just see what different people bring to he table to show off their coffees?
Back on topic…outside of the scope of the SCAE UK why don’t more people do barista jams or something of the ilk where people throw down skills or just hang out and play with shots or sig drinks or hell ANYTHING?!?! sorry to gesticulated with my grammer but this frustrates me no end.
In living within a reasonably close distance to London and having my own car I can go down for SqM events and atleast have contact with a UK coffee scene and the Internet allows me to chat with people on TMC and other forums. But despite this living outside London and working in a shop where the espresso is nothing I would rate (or drink) and having no local coffee shop I can visit on my day off makes it feel slightly like I am alone for the most part in my passion for coffee. This may sound like a slight digression from my post but it does have a point relating to it.
Looking at the semi finalists for the UKBC leaves a list of (by my count) 8 of the 20 semifinalists from London. This community which drives itself and pushes itself speaks for it’s strength in this statistic alone. London is a unique creature in not only it’s concentration of coffee shops but also the atmosphere and attitude, is the community a result of this? Can communities like this build up in other areas? Should I convince the wife to move to London so I can go to a coffee shop on my day off? Is there another community like this in the UK that I’m missing?
…Is anyone out there?