WBC 2010 Ramblings

July 1st, 2010

Ah, the post-WBC, er… post.  I’ve always failed at anything vaguely approaching a decent wrap-up of these events and I doubt I’m likely to start now.

It is tricky to find a place to start, so broad is the experience and so numerous the people and conversations.  I should probably start with the important stuff:

John was, simply put, amazing.  Not just for a performance that left him a cruel half point outside of the semis, but even more for being an amazing ambassador for coffee in the UK and for being the epitome of how a barista should act onstage and offstage.  I am utterly honoured to call him a colleague and friend.  As a competing barista you are incredibly reliant on your support team and if I ever went back to it then I’d definitely want Jess in my corner as she does an incredible job.

His blend of two different coffees from two different roasters (the combined wonderfulness of Anette and Steve) was a lot of fun, and I think (as does Steve) that it says good things about the community and relationships within the UK coffee industry.

Plus that signature drink was ludicrously tasty…….

It’s hard writing about John, as well as many other competitors.  I’m lucky to call many of the finalists, semi-finalists and competitors friends and was being onstage as MC on the final day was a privilege.  Getting to taste everyone’s espresso was just so much fun that I shouldn’t go on about how delicious they all were because you’ll all want to kill me.  Seriously – too much tasty espresso goodness.

Getting to sneak some of Colin Harmon’s signature drink (which, by the way, did everything he promised and was both tasty and fascinating) was an added bonus.  Colin and Steve are a great example of what is possible when open minded and passionate baristas work with skilled and passionate roasters.  It is a shame Colin thinks he won’t be competing next year.  (I’m probably going to try to convince him otherwise!)

I don’t think anyone is in doubt that Mike Phillips is a deserving champion, and will be a great figurehead for coffee in the coming years.  Once you know Mike a little it is easy to forget just how focused, skilled and accomplished he is because he’s so charming and friendly.  And that can be a little distracting.

Oh, and the only part of the sig drink I tasted – the washed coffee, skimmed of crema then chilled and served with sparkling water:  ludicrously good.  Seriously, damned near criminal.

I am aware that it is easy to write nothing but sweetness and light after these events. Worry not – I’ve saved a little scorn, all to be focused on the event organisers of the show.  It seems odd that they seemed to show such annoyance and hostility towards the event that was a sufficient draw to double the size of their exhibition.  If anyone can explain it, I’m all ears….

Penny University was all kinds of crazy.  I owe massive thanks to Tim, Tobias and Alex for working incredibly hard on a bar that is demanding even on the quietest days – let alone when 30+ coffee industry folk appear at once and you’ve only got 6 seats!  You know you’re lucky to have amazing colleagues when people seek you out at the show just to tell you how great they are, and Tim puts so much time and effort into creating and running Penny University – for which I am very, very grateful.

It was great for me to make coffee for so many people the day after, while at the same time I felt horrible that the waiting time was so long and that there were people I didn’t get the opportunity to serve.  I hope everyone who came had fun though – be it that day, or any other day!

The show itself – or should I say the experience of being at a trade show in London – was a bit overwhelming.  So many people to say hello to that you barely got to say two sentences after that before being whipped in a different direction to great another person you hadn’t seen in way too long.  I didn’t really get a chance to hang out at any of the booths, which was a shame because I am sure I missed out on some interesting stuff.

Now it’s all over.  A mixture of sadness and relief.  It seems like people had a pretty good time in London (it is a weird feeling when you feel vaguely responsable for how good a time people have when visiting your city.)  I think the days I enjoyed most were the ones just after the event when a few people were still in town so we could hang out, drink some interesting whisky, eat oversized and delicious sausage rolls and be a bit silly.

Reading back over this I realise it is a pretty woeful wrap up, but I don’t think my brain can process this into anything sensible that could properly capture all the interesting stuff, all the hard work, all the preparation and execution that went on at an event like this.  (Plus saying “Congratulations everyone!” seems like a total cop out.  Ah well!  Plus I’ve used too many superlatives, but it is hard to describe many wonderful things in not many words.)

I’d love to know people’s impressions of London and the coffee scene here, if you visited and you read this.  It is easy to be too close to it and not see the forest for the trees.

For more WBC-type reading:

Colin Harmon’s Blog
Steve Leighton’s Blog
David Walsh’s Blog
Barista Magazine
Coffee Collective
Caffenation Blog
Bean Here, Bean There
Coffee Crusade
Star Barista

Hopefully Twitchy at some point.   (That should keep you all busy!)

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