Review of 2006

It has been quite a year! I thought I’d try and put together a retrospective of the year for me in the world of coffee.

Whilst I will generally go month by month I guess there are other things that have occurred this year, or developed this year, that don’t really fit a specific timeline. I’ll mention a few of those at the end.

This will be a long post, but I’ll try and stick a fair few photos in there too to try and keep things interesting!


January and February

My life was utterly consumed with the UK Barista Championship. Not just competing but also travelling around to each regional to help lug equipment, build stages and then during the competitions help baristas out backstage with anything they needed and doing a little station management. The best thing about this is that I got to meet everybody who competed in the whole competition which was pretty inspiring. This year there are more regionals, and more places at most of them so I hope the competition is going to grow and grow.

London Heat

Northern Heat

Scottish Heat

Northern Irish Heat

Welsh Heat

South-west Heat

As for competing – I find it very stressful, though once I am into the performance it can be a lot of fun. Of course you can also drop your coffee all over yourself and spend the next 12 months being teased about it but hopefully I am past that now.

Winning the UK competition was, in many ways, a great relief. I had worked really hard with this one goal in mind and put myself under a lot pressure. Next time I compete I just hope I won’t have worked a massive, busy trade show for 4 days first!

March

I did very little except nip off to St. Morritz whilst Karl Purdy won the Irish barista competition.

April

El Salvador. It was truly an incredible experience, and like everyone’s first trip to Origin left me a little bit evangelical about it all and I will probably carry a slight favouritism for El Salvadoran coffee for some time! It was great to meet people like Ricardo and Luis at the Consejo and great to see Luis again a couple of times later in the year.

I can’t wait to go back to origin, and I still want to go back to El Salvador again. I am hoping that one day maybe I can go as an observer on the CoE there. Here’s hoping.

May

May was all about Berne for me. Preparation for this pretty much took over my life, and to some extent Anette’s as well. I figured I didn’t want to do a fancy, over the top performance – I wanted the espresso and the capp to be all about the coffee, about the people that grew it and how good it tasted. Then I wanted my sig drink to be something entertaining and different for the judges and the audience.

The feeling coming off stage after the first round was very confusing. I had screwed up quite badly, having to ditch a set of capp shots. However, the crowd had been great and I had had a lot of fun. My goal of making the finals looked a little out of reach as so many of the 39 entrants were really great baristas putting in seemingly excellent performances.

Making the finals was a complete surprise, especially having had a weird day with the World Latte Art competition. I thought I had screwed up completely. Turns out I did ok, and would have come third but they recounted my score down a couple of points and I took 5th. I was just happy not to be in a deserving last!

It is interesting looking back that I wrote extensively on the Heats but have never posted anything on the finals. I didn’t do as well as I could have, I pulled very average shot, my capps were torn to pieces and I screwed up the split drink. But hey, I had a lot of fun and I don’t think I’ve ever had quite as an aggressive learning experience before. I am still feeling like I am getting over the amount of work that went into it and it is a little difficult to force myself back into the routines this year.

One of the great things about the WBC was meeting all the people, some for the first time and others I hadn’t seen for a long time. Getting to know Klaus, Sammy and Matt a little and seeing people like Luis again was great. I really do like a lot of people in our industry. Klaus was a very worthy winner.

June

I started to get a little bit more into the science of stuff and began to write articles for the blog starting with foam and maillard reactions. Eventually these kickstarted a coffee study group at coffeed but right now that particular project (despite its massive potential) looks unlikely to come to fruition.

July

I moved to wordpress because I hate blogger. My blog got prettier. Interestingly it wasn’t long before a lot of coffee blogs left blogger and moved to wordpress. I briefly though I was a trendsetter then got over myself.

August

Anette and I went up to Norway. It was great to see Trondheim, which turned out to be a prettier and much friendlier city than Oslo. That said Oslo did have it best in the coffee stakes and I was grateful to Tim Wendleboe for taking the time to show us around the place. Coffee at Robert Thoreson’s shops was better than anywhere else and it was nice to catch up with Anne and Charles who I had last seen at the WBC. Equally it was good to mess around behind a machine with Halvard, who I had barely seen backstage in Bern as we were both chaotically busy and a little too stressed!

Must say thanks again to Eirik for the hospitality in Olso.

September

I went to my first ever barista jam, which was a lot of fun and also a great learning experience (especially as I had to organise a small jam not long afterwards!). Union were great hosts and I think the highlight for me was one cupping where we did a region by altitude and then one farm processed three different ways. That kind of cupping is something I’d like to do more of.

The end of September was the Nordic barisa cup. I went with high expectations of the event, most of which probably weren’t met but I had a great time because (once again) of the people. A couple of lectures were good though – Morten’s talk on water helped my understanding of a few things and the lecture of sugar, specifically taste profiles linked to heat was fascinating (especially when you factor in the sweetness of steamed milk).

The teflon portafilter was one of those things I expected to see a lot more and I would still like to get hold of one for a little experimentation.

October

The start of October was the SCAE Europe Team Challenge event. I was part of the UK team and we were victorious over Iceland, Ireland, Estonia, Russia and Germany. The competition was a little different to those at the NBC (though obviously based on its format). I learnt about filter coffee, as well as realising I know very little about roasting. It was a lot of fun and Dublin was a great place to hang out with everyone.

I also organised (well, let’s not go too far – I helped a bit) a barista Jam at the La Spaziale offices. It was a lot of fun, and I was glad we could keep the groups small so there was lots of hands on time. I was gutted I couldn’t go to the one in Glasgow in November, but I was proud of this one.

November

I had been looking forward to going to Trieste for a while and it was a lot of fun. I think the highlight was the display of the old machines, they just don’t build them like that anymore. So pretty. It was nice to hang out with Stephen Morrissey a bit too.

December

Well, in December things finally slowed down. It may not seem like a busy year from the above but very little of the above is what I actually do for a living (though things like Trieste are obviously linked to work and a lovely perk of the job). I try not to blog about my day to day work because it would feel like an invasion of the privacy of the people with whom I am working. That and it is isn’t always as interesting as this stuff!

Apart from all this it seems I ought to mention a couple of things that have left their impression this year. First and foremost I guess is the Scace device. I know it was doing the rounds at the end of last year but this year it really seems to be omnipresent. Plus I didn’t get one til this year!

(pic from espresso parts)

The internet and the coffee blogs (which seem to have exploded this year – I have a collection of over 100 coffee RSS feeds on my bloglines) can be inspiring and frustrating because the key thing to all of coffee is the one thing we cannot share – taste. I guess the Scace helped people communicate and share coffee experiences a little better.

As for the coffee blogs – I guess a lot of what Nick Cho said in the pf podcast is right. There is only so much grand thinking and soul searching available in coffee and not all of it is very interesting. Next year I shall try and keep my rants to a minimum, my philosophy to drunken evenings and just write about stuff which I see and find interesting. And maybe a few more geeky science articles.

If I missed anything/anyone in the above let me know, it wasn’t on purpose!

Thanks to Gary McGann for the idea for the post.

Happy New Year

[tags]coffee, espresso, 2006, end of year review, coffee in 2006, wbc, nbc, ukbc, el salvador, trieste, barista, latte art, cappuccino[/tags]

3 Comments

  1. Great read James. Best wishes for 2007. Hope you’ll enjoy it as much as the past year. Good luck with everything!
    -K

  2. Again a good time on the web, thanks to you.
    Here in Antwerp, Belgium we follow your site and the advice or information you give. Keep up the good work in 2008. Rob

  3. It was such a pleasure have you here in El Salvador in 2006, i hope we can see u here again in 2007 for COE and cup together hopefully… take care my friend and best wishes to you on this year!
    L

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