The most prestigious coffee competition of the year, the World Barista Championship just finished yesterday, November 12th, by crowning the World Barista Champion of 2017. The winner was announced after four days of competitions: two days of preliminary rounds that led the selected 16 baristas to semi-finals and, after a day of their routines, a narrowed-down group of 6 to the final round.
The winner was selected based on their points collected throughout their routine, judged by a panel of four judges. The judges focused on the descriptors delivered by the competitor, such as flavour notes, tactile quality as well as the definition of weight, acidity, sweetness and bitterness, or the aftertaste of the espresso, milky beverage, and signature drink presented. The judges were also putting down notes about the customer service, innovative techniques of the barista and other factors that should be determining of an ambassador of the speciality coffee around the globe.
The number of very innovative and informative presentations could not be counted on the fingers of both hands. We saw multiple champions using liquid nitrogen, nitrogen flushing, cooling or freezing of coffee, coffee roasted on stage, as well as special grinding techniques. Collectively, those steps also led to much faster espressos than in the previous years. We cannot forget to mention the over-all step-up, which is becoming a standard, in the competitors’ equipment: distribution tools, EK43s, the newest tampers and other devices, of which all helped the baristas to focus on delivering a great cup of coffee to the judges.
When the quality of equipment and the quality coffee used are at such a high level, the key to success rests on the shoulders of the competing barista: the message he wants to share and his presentation skills, the innovation in his approach and potentially what does it bring to the coffee industry of our time.
Although undoubtedly, all of the finalists have brought an innovative approach and coffee brewing novelties that we will surely see appearing across the world as their message gets spread around our coffee circles, the winner can be only one.
Dale Harris, in his daily life the Director of Wholesale at Hasbean Coffee, is the Barista Champion of the United Kingdom and, now, also the Barista Champion of the World. Since yesterday, his reign is going to last until the next champion is crowned next year at the 2018 World Barista Championship in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
Dale has won after years of competing and working in the industry. Since 2009, Dale had seen many top placements, and also had come second in the UK the three consecutive years before 2017. With as many years of competition behind his belt, he had seen many progressive changes in the competition rules, set-up of the stage, and the requirements put on the competitors. And he used all of this knowledge in the latest presentation that won him the title.
Dale’s presentation was an unusual interpretation of cup profile and a more interactive organisation of the workstation. Dale had invested a lot of time into the study of the aromatic compounds found in coffee, of which there are more than 1000 that we know of. He selected ten of the most significant ones in his coffee that carry certain flavours and explained what flavour do they translate into in his espresso. He also navigated the judges with a perfectly structured tasting boards, charts and objects that carried some of the aromatic compounds in his coffee. Additionally, he welcomed them to the second bar he created for his signature beverage presentation.
The goal of Dale’s presentation was to build context for the information he was sharing with the judges, and that he’d be sharing with his customers. Dale put the emphasis on delivering the relevant information without turning the details of origin or processing methods into white noise. In his presentation, Dale mentioned how interested he has always been in the impact which those have on the cup profile, but he has always realised that stating all of this information can be confusing if the customers cannot really taste it in their cups.
The whole presentation led up to the moment when Dale revealed the coffee he used in his presentation: El Salvadorian SL28, a fully washed coffee, a selected micro-lot grown by Ernesto Menéndez at his farm Finca Las Brumas in the Santa Ana region. With all of the information he provided the judges with, they could fully understand everything they were tasting and see the results of the processes that happen at the farm level.
And how did he prepare his espressos? Dale used the recipe of 20g in the baskets and 44 g extraction yield. His espresso had the following cup profile:
Flavour notes: Pomegranate, Ethiopian honey, caramelised orange
Tactile qualities: Silky, coating
Acidity: Medium to high
Mouthfeel: Of Pinot Noire
Congratulations, Dale! It was an incredible performance we were happy to watch three days in a row! Well deserved and well done!