WBC – Thoughts and Thank Yous

It still hasn’t sunk in, perhaps because it was beyond my expectations of what could happen in Tokyo.  Regardless of this I am still a very, very happy person.  I am very aware, however, that there are a lot of people to whom I owe a great deal, who have given a lot to help me and have been instrumental in my success in the WBC.  (this may end being quite a long post as I have a lot of people to thank – I hope I don’t miss anyone out!  And yes, there are a lot of Stephens)  All the thank yous below are heartfelt, yet woefully inadequate:

Starting with the biggest thank you to Anette.  First of all for roasting the coffee (though I will get to other thank yous there also).  For putting up with me, for supporting me competing for the last couple of years.  For the endless nights in the training room over those years patiently watching, tasting and cleaning.   I’ve learnt a great deal from you, you are amazing in every way.  I could not have achieved any of this without you.

Stephen – thank you for the time you’ve put in, for seeing all the detail, for being a great sounding board, for always pushing me forwards, always asking the right questions and for being a great friend for the last couple of years.  I am looking forward to working with you very much.

Jenny – I am so glad you were there with us, both in Tokyo and for the UKBC and I am so grateful for your incredible help, especially with all the thankless tasks that surround barista competitions.  I think the four of us made a great team this year.  Thank you thank you!

Peter and Elliott – for your gracious loan of your roasters, as well as sharing so much of your knowledge when it came to the coffees and the profiles.  Without your input I don’t think the coffees would have gotten me the top spot, you are both inspirational roasters to us and we really can’t thank you enough.

Steve Leighton – for roasting amazing coffee for me for the last two UK Competitions and for Berne.  For tolerating my endless absurd demands and always pulling new and amazing out of the bag.  Your generosity with coffee, knowledge and everything else is incredible and I have been so lucky to have a friend like you in coffee.

Steve Penk – as an employer who acted as a catalyst in my education in coffee, who quickly became a good friend.  Without you and Chris giving me the freedom to learn, as well as putting a lot of your own time and money into my education I would have found coffee much harder work than I do.  The hard work you have put in to changing and improving the UK coffee scene is extraordinary in the truest sense – you have changed what it means to be a barista in the UK, and I am sure I am not alone in feeling grateful to you for that.

Stephen and Flori – in the last two years you have opened my eyes to the possibilities of how good coffee can be and then gone further by putting stellar coffees in front of me and giving me access to so much and so many.  I have benefited hugely from the invitations to your cupping table and sharing your vast wealth of experience and knowledge.  Thank you also to Grant, Jose, Gayle and Hayley at Mercanta who have always been great friends, supporters and willing guinea pigs of my experiments!

A huge thank you and my complete respect to all the other competitors because you make the craft of the barista something to be very proud of, and you are inspirational to me and many others and I hope I can live up to your expectations of a representative of what we do.  I hope to see many of you again over the coming months and years and you made Tokyo and incredible and humbling experience.

Hermanos Barrantes Zuñiga and all those at Herbazu for an amazing coffee that I think confounds expectations of how a single estate Costa Rican espresso should taste.

Mr Harries, Mr Ngungute and Mr Gitonga who managed Gethumbwini, and all those who work their that produced one of my favourite coffees of the last few years.  I am drinking a cup as write this and I hope one day to see the place this stellar coffee comes from.

The experience of competing is terrifying, but I have to thank the two people who work incredibly hard behind the scenes with the competitors and make us feel welcome and relaxed do so much to help in any way they can – Michelle Campbell and Cindy Chang are both awesome, utterly awesome.

Thanks too to Jay and Bronwen and the people who volunteer their time and hard work doing a pretty thankless and unpleasant task, and doing it incredibly well.

Nick Cho also deserves a huge thank you, not just from me but from everyone who attended this year.  It might have been me but Nick’s name seemed curiously and disappointingly absent from the speeches before the announcements and he did a difficult job for three very long days and did it exceptionally.  I think his introductions and his attitudes made every barista feel proud of their country and their craft.

There are plenty more people that deserve recognition – the people who work behind the scenes of the UKBC and WBC.  The SCAE, SCAA and SCAJ all put a lot into the biggest ever WBC and I am not sure when the WBC will next generate an audience the size that it did in Tokyo.  A lot of people have worked a similar magic on the UK and I thank them.  I’ve probably missed lots of people but I hope to thank most everyone in person soon.

As for my thoughts on the competition – It was amazing.  I have no idea if I will every make coffee in front of that many people again and maybe I won’t ever again.  I really didn’t think I had won before the announcements, and I am happy that from a technical standpoint I managed to get out of the way and get a lot of what is great about those coffees into the cup – I’ve always maintained that all my potential lies there, and any barista is only as good as their coffee.  I knew this year I was working with amazing crops and I am glad I could get that to the judges.  I am not sure if I will ever be able to watch the videos up on Zachary Zachary – maybe when I am an old man reliving past triumphs!  Actually they deserve a huge thank you – Katie and Zachary have done a great deal for the competition and being a barista.

I barely looked at my scoresheets during my post match chat with Matts – though I did see that I was rightly slaughtered on one set of capps for not enough foam – I think a lot of people have spotted that one.  (I think my attention was so focused on my 2nd set of shots that my milk suffered a little).  What really delighted me was that I think I did a good job of my espressos.  Backstage before hand they were tasting so good, compared to the ups and downs of the practise the day before, and that let me relax and get on with things.

I will post more, maybe a nice round up post once I have had a chance to relax and wind down.  I’ve uploaded a whole bunch of photos to Flickr – here is the set.

Thanks again to everyone, I am humbled and grateful and really want to do the best possible job I can between now and Copenhagen 2008.

James

30 Comments

  1. As always beautifully put, a worth champ and well deserved. Its been a pleasure working with you my good friend, I look forward to your experiences over the coming year.

  2. James,
    it has been my pleasure and honour to work with you for the last few years, and all those days and nights of pulling shots, rehearsing routines, picking at every little detail, worrying and fretting seem worth it now. I am incredibly proud of you and grateful for you, both on a professional and private level. Since that first day you wandered in to my lab I knew you would be someone who would do a good job for coffee. I thank you for all the support you have given me as well, having to prepare for two World Championships in the same year was unexpected but I hope i did you as proud as you did me. You were always my champion and you would have been regardless of how you did in Tokyo. I couldn’t be happier for you and I look forward to our new venture together!

  3. Humble and great. How refreshing. Perhaps great coffee can change the world, or our corner of it. Tremendous job James. You are exactly the right kind of champion.

  4. Wow. What a WBC.

    You must be completely unaware of the sort of media coverage that this has been getting. OK, so I haven’t flipped on the idiot box to see your performance, but between the blogs, the forums and zacharyzachary, even in Melbourne everyone know that you won!

    From my perspective, I’m very glad to see that you managed to return the focus to the actual coffee. Knockout, simple and … tasty … flavour combinations. It was pure chance that led someone at work to roast up a batch of a Kenyan coffee with similar flavours to your Gethumbwini, so today my regulars were treated to WBC style cappuccini made using it. Everyone was suitably impressed … which was odd, because it made for an almost unpleasant espresso. Then your signature drink was one of those things that feels like it was just staring us all in the face. (Quick aside: a full sized cappuccino made with your donut juice was incredibly filling ;P) Now don’t get me wrong; I loved Dave’s liquid nitrogen concoction, but I loved it more because the taste was spot on than for the steam enveloping all of the judges. So hopefully barista comps will return to being about flavour, rather than about cool stuff. I’m sure that Carl will think of some other use for his zany apparatus ;P

    Anyhoo; enough taking up space – plenty of other people will be along soon!

    Cheers, and congrats,

    Luca

  5. James,

    Congratulations to you and your team for the job well done.

    Cheers,

    Steve

  6. James:

    Heartiest congratulations. I have no doubt you will wear your World Barista Championship “crown” as gracefully as you performed in winning the competition.

  7. James, congratulations once again! Great job! Greets from Poland!

  8. James,
    Congratulations to you and your team.
    I haven’t seen all of the vids yet, but your show looked very good. Entertaining, informative, very professional, personale and with a nice British flair.

    You’re a great motivator to me and my team. Hope to meet up one of the months in London, and looking forward to taste this Costa Rican one day.

    Good luck as ambassador.

    Rob
    Antwerp Barista
    Caffenation

  9. James,

    Your ideas and dreams of what coffee really can be are extraordinarily genius. However, it is your humility and approach to those ideas that make me so proud to call you World Barista Champion.

    Congratulations!

  10. James, I’ve just finished watching all the finalists videos and I have to say your presentation was stunning. It was a clear cut win from as much as I can tell from my eyes and ears. It was seriously well deserved. We were all rooting for you here in the states. Good luck in your next year and beyond, and I hope to meet you in the near future.

    enjoy the gs3,
    Ben Kaminsky

  11. You really are very good at brewing and choosing great coffee.

    very proud,

    stephen

  12. Well done James. Your relaxed style and ability to speak without ‘learning your lines’ was a refreshing change from some of the more robotic deliveries in barista competitions. It was a pleasure to watch you as ever. A true champion :)

  13. Well done mate,

    You are going to have a great year and I hope I get the chance to catch up with you soon, I want to hear all the stories!

    Well done again

    Deaton

  14. Well done James, it had to happen sooner or later!

  15. Many, many congratulations James…awesome news. I’m chuffed to bits for you!

  16. Congratulations! This is soo cool, I’m so glad that it was you who won! And humbled before the knowledge and work and foremost passion/obsession that lies behind it.
    You’re a hero and a great example for little coffee-makers like me!

  17. James,

    Could not be happier to see you come through for the win at this years WBC. After seeing you perform in Berne we all expected you to do well, however high expectations are always hard to deliver on! Fantastic performance and all the best for the year ahead. Looking forward to seeing you and Annette in Australia sometime soon!

    Dave.

  18. James,

    A very belated reply to your kind words of gratitude – you were so good to even think of me in your thoughts and thank yous! I was so delighted to have been there with you, Anette and Stephen. Each day brought its own adventure whether it was searching all of Tokyo for fresh cream or tasting the various brands of milk, right down to the polishing! I feel so honoured to have been part of Team Hoffmann and I still feel incredibly emotional each time time I watch your performance and the announcement. Stephen and I are so very proud of you.

    Looking forward to seeing you and Anette again soon,
    Jen

  19. Hi James!

    I guess that I have nothing to say but: YOU RULE!
    It was so nice to share some nice moments with you and anette and many more in Tokyo, awesome times!
    You make all of us proud of coffee! keep on rockin’!

    L

  20. Congratulations again James.
    A spectacular performance indeed.
    I am confident that you will be a great ambassador for our craft in the coming years.

    Thank you for giving us a wonderful experience in Tokyo.

    Cheers
    Tim

  21. F**k me. I go away for a few days and a Brit picks up the WBC!!! And I thought I’d done enough to put you off competitions two years ago. Well you learned the hard way how to balance a tray full of cappuccinos (sorry cappuccini) and look at you now…

    Many, many congratulations. Chuffed for you and feel a warm just brewed glow for the UK industry as a whole,

    David

  22. Just trying to focus the spotlight on the baristas, but thanks for the props.

    Right back at ya, Champ. Kick ass job.

    Are you sure it isn’t clumpy? ;-)

  23. Nice work mate, your cool attitude and humble self made for inspiring viewing. Bring on London!!!

  24. James,

    CONGRATULATIONS !!!

    I regret not being able to chat with you at Tokio, but I was so overwhelmed by the situation (Argentina`s first time at the WBC, being just a “home barista”, alone, with my luggage lost, etc) that I wasn`t able to know many competitors.
    I know next year will be easier, or at least I will be better prepared/trained … hope to see you at Copenhagen.

    Best regards,
    Federico J. Cabrera
    gourmetcafe@gmail.com

  25. James – many congratulations on a fantastic and fully deserved success – wish I could have been there to see it. As Tim Styles said – you may have been surprised but I don’t think too many others were. I’ve been following the comments in the Italian media – even they have been enthusing about your professionalism and simplicity of your approach. Good luck to you in whatever you now decide to do on the back of this awesome achievement.

  26. James,

    An inspiring performance. (Ditto on all the other comments here too.)
    It was a pleasure to meet you (and everyone else at WBC 2007 for that matter), and I’m sure you’ll do the WBC proud.
    I look forward to seeing you in Copenhagen or maybe Melbourne :-)

    Cheers,
    Simon.

  27. Hello James

    Not usually one for the notice boards, but I have to admit to having a lump in my throat when the last two were standing waiting for the announcement on the Big Stage in Tokyo. I have a great photo of you shortly after the announcement; the Sink In Moment!

    I just got back to the office today, so all this may seem like old newspapers; but I think the significance of your achievement will resound well beyond the year that you are champion. A new nation won the WBC, not five years after Ladbrokes would have offered us 1000-1 that the next guy to walk into their shop even knew what a barista was, let alone see the UK Champion win a ****ing World Championship!!

    At Mercanta, we are the back room guys; suppliers to the best in their field the world over.

    The Formula One team that makes a World Champion needs a superb driver like you, and a top team of engineers that you so ably mentioned earlier in this thread. Mercanta are proud to see you so deservedly win the UKBC. We, amongst a few, know just how hard you tolied.

    You and Anette are the Posh and Becks of the specialty coffee world, and I mention it because I know just how much you will hate that comparison!! But it is well intentioned.

    Sorry that Flo and I missed the after show party in Tokyo but to be absolutely honest, Stephen had mentioned that the party was somewhere in Ginza (bit too big to go wandering round) and we had some other very sad commitment with the Costa Rican Embassy. At least they were delighted about the Herbazu news, although I know where I would rather have been.

    So – superb effort. I love it when the good guys win. Well done, look forward to catching up soon. I know it is a long way to come and visit us; but you are always welcome.

    Can’t sign off without saying what you know better than many. Quality coffee beans are not a coincidence.

    All the Best
    Stephen Hurst

  28. Hey James,
    Just stopping by to say a big congrats on your achievment in Tokyo!! Everyone this side of the pond was rootin’ for ya! Glad you took it home with you. Seriously well done mate, Jon.

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