Coffee quaffing at UK Barista Championships Regional Heat 2, Newcastle

Coffee. I like mine tall, dark, deep and dairy-free, which I think accurately reflects my taste in men. Now I think about it, if a man doesn’t like coffee, we probably won’t get along. Last weekend I went along to an event that was packed out with people who really like coffee and baristas who understand the beauty of a fine brew.

I headed along to the second regional heat in the UK Barista Championships with my friend Michael and after what I shall term ‘a fairly eventful’ drive to town we arrived at the Life Centre and downed two free espressos in fairly quick concession (delicious free offerings of one of the event hosts Pumphreys). We were FULL OF BEANS, buzzing on the quality coffee and the upbeat vibe of what was a surprisingly visually pleasing event.

We were there to watch the second day of competition in Newcastle and unfortunately missed the performance of Overall Winner of Regional Heat 2 – Joe Meagher from Flat Caps Coffee (@flatcapjoe) who scooped a further two awards; Best Signature Drink and Best Cappuccino. However, we did catch the sets of Steve Dyson from Spring Espresso (@springespresso) and Union Hand-Roasted barista trainer Chris Walton (@espressochris) who received the award for Best Espresso.

Steve Dyson interviewed at the UK barista championships

Steve Dyson at the UK barista championships

 I hadn’t imagined the efforts of the competitors would be so performative – not only did they have to make their coffees in full view of the audience and with clipboard-wielding judges so close to them I’d be screaming out about my personal space (seriously, I don’t want to shake your hand unless it’s a job interview). Alongside all this and the making of the coffee under timed conditions, the baristas had to talk you through their set. This meant chatting about what they were doing, what beans they were using, why, how the process they were following would affect the taste of the beans and the particular roast of the coffee. Best of all, this was all carried out to a soundtrack selected for each barista, which included some damn good drum and bass. BEANS, BASS AND BARISTAS, IN YOUR FACE!
I feel like I learnt a lot from watching the performances and chatting to other folk in attendance. here’s a summary:
  • ‘Acidity’ is a major buzz-word in the barista world right now
  • Sugar poisons coffee and actually makes it taste more bitter
  • You can buy coffee that tastes like red apples
  • Forget adding syrup to your coffee to flavour it, instead try infusing it with ginger

As a direct result of attending this event I have an impressive list of independent coffee houses to check out in Newcastle and a near-constant burning desire to buy a coffee machine. I cannot afford a coffee machine. Do not let me buy a coffee machine!

You can follow the progress of the entrants on the SCAE UK site and I wish our regional best the best of luck as the competition progresses.

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