UKBC 2009 semi finals …And my wayward shot!


Gwilym UKBC 09 winner!

Still kicking myself about my stupid blunder with my shots during my set in the UKBC semi finals!

Like a complete tool, I managed to place one of my shotpots a couple of millimetres out of place, and so missed one of my four shots as it poured for my sig drink, meaning the judges had to award me ZERO points for the taste balance for the drink. I suppose I should take consolation in the fact that finishing 15th in the UK with no signature drink points is quite impressive! I only ever really hoped to finish in that kind of position anyway, in this, my first year competing (especially as an almost entirely self-taught barista with no coach or competition support) – but it’s still so annoying, after so much hard work and preparation, to realise that I would have placed higher, if not for such a silly error.


When I eventually realised the shot was missing the pot (towards the end of the pour when I turned back to the machine) I thought (or hoped!) that maybe it was just the faster, blonde section that had missed towards the end, and in the heat of the moment (already really tight for time), I blindly decided to just ignore the blunder, and use the shots as they were! Ideally, even though it would definitely have sent me quite a bit over-time, I should probably have remade the shot (or even better, put the shotpot in the right damn position in the first place!), as I believe the error cost me somewhere in the region of 35 – 102 points; probably about 60 – 70. My total score on the day was 501, and whilst I don’t know where a score of 565-ish would have placed me, I assume it would have made a rather significant difference… (although it was never going to be a top six performance).

All those nights carefully adjusting the ratios of the ingredients, tweeking the chocolate content by individual grams (69 in the end!), and playing with the fat content, temperatures, volumes, preparation and melting timings, to get the taste balance as good as possible: All out the window in an instant, by using 3 shots instead of the essential 4!

It’s silly to get wound-up about points and placing, as it distracts from the real reasons I entered the competitions (a love for the cuisine, and a desire to learn more about it), and there’s nothing I can do about it now, but I can’t help feeling I’ve let myself and the coffee down, by not ranking higher, due such a silly, but crucial, mistake on the day!

Que sera, sera!

On a more positive note, apparently my espressos came 4th, and I entered the semifinals in overall 9th place after winning the Welsh heat – so I’m really happy that such an exciting and unconventional (and potentially unbalanced and sour) espresso managed to be so consistently well received.

I made a few other silly errors that bug me too, but nothing else as significant:

* I placed the espresso spoons for the judges on the inside, rather than the outside, to use first (but they figured out what to do).

* I placed Se’s glass down the wrong end of the table (again, I think he found it without too much bother!).

* I forgot to start pouring their waters as I introduced myself (but ad-libbed and made the time up).

* I poured my sauce through my Ice-funnel the first time before making my sig shots, instead of during, as planned (hmmm – this is probably what threw me, and made me not concentrate on positioning those pots properly!!).

* I lost my whisk (I managed to totally hide it from myself under my ice-funnel after using it), so I had to ‘swirl’ my espressos into the sauce, rather than giving it a proper stir.

* One lot of milk wasn’t so good.

* The presentation on two of the capps was not so good (the second pour from each pitcher). I went for fairly safe, appley, traditional circles, because after a bit of a wonky rosetta at the heat, they stressed that symmetry and balance were more important than latte art (which is fair enough). So I ditched the latte art intentionally to achieve better points by pouring a version of a traditional. As it was, apparently they thought I had tried to pour latte art and failed – and so still marked me down! (perhaps one the the two poor pours) So to hell with it – I think from now on, I’ll bite the bullet and really go for those rosettas in future competitions!

So; plenty to learn from, and put down to competition experience.

Blunders aside though, the process of the competitions has been really good, and I guess I’ll definitely compete again next year. It’s been a good learning experience, during which I’ve developed my tasting knowledge, tightened my technique, and discovered some amazing coffees (with the help of Peter and JGC), which were always my aims in entering.

The quality of the other competitors at the finals was really impressive too – a very good year – everyone has commented that the standard just gets better and better, year on year, which is really positive for the industry. Glad to see Gwilym win – a lovely set on Tuesday – and congratulations to Jack, Tristan, Lance, Luke, John and everyone else for their achievements! Congrats to Dale too (who I understand is one of the select club of about 4 people that read this drivel – Hi Dale!), who’s set was, yet again, one of my favourites. I know he was annoyed with a few aspects of his performance too (looked great to me) …but I think he, myself, and Estelle, are now considering the up-coming Latte Art competitions by way of a comeback..?!!

…Now, where can I get two extra shotpots/glasses? Aah yes – in my goody bag – bit late now though!


dale-h1     maxine     marcin 




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