The (Coffee) World Cup, London June 2010!

If England’s performance at the World Cup in South Africa this year is often shaky and hard to watch – then why not take the opportunity to also support the UK in another world championship happening right here in the UK, in London next week – the World Barista Championships, on the 23rd – 25th June 2010?!

As with most world championships, each year the WBC is held in a different country. This is the first time we have hosted it here in the UK, and so this is a rare chance to see the World’s very best professional baristas (people who specialise in making espresso and other coffee drinks) all competing here. Each year around the world, many countries hold their own national Barista Championship, as did the UK this year between January and March, in the search for a final, winning barista (Shameless plug – I myself came 4th in the UK final this year!) who then goes on to represent their country at the World Championships. This year John Gordon won the UKBC, and will be in London competing for the title of World Barista Champion 2010 – so come along to this event to support him (free if you simply register …or even just watch live online instead) and find out a little more about the fascinating cuisine of espresso and coffee, and those dedicated to preparing it at the very highest level!

In case you’re wondering… this is far from the mass-produced, disinterested, push-button type of coffee you might see being produced in many chains and coffee shops up and down the country. Coffee can be a bit like food – you can have situations where it’s just microwaved or deep-fried without any real quality or skill involved – or it can be made by skilled chefs who are knowledgable and passionate about great ingredients and techniques. This is very much the sort of level that baristas who compete in barista championships are working at – often they have years of experience, together with an intimate knowledge of their materials, ingredients, machinery and techniques. These baristas will know exactly where the beans in their own personal espresso blend have come from – the individual farms – how they have been harvested and processed in the origin countries, and crucially the subtle flavours and textures their blend will exhibit. They will have worked closely with a small, expert, artisan roaster, or even roasted their own coffee, and will have gradually developed and adjusted their coffee through extensive tasting and testing. They will have spent weeks, even months, perfecting a ‘signiture’ drink, along with their espressos and cappuccinos, and honing their whole set for the stage – where every second counts – and where sensory and technical judges will then assess in detail the skill and the flavours of the drinks they craft within the allotted time.

This (dare I say …unlike football?!) is something we here in the UK are becoming consistently great at! Although there is still a lot of bad coffee around (and it’s sadly probably the norm in fact), there is actually a small but fast developing speciality coffee scene here, driven by a handful of the best independent coffee shops, micro-roasters and baristas – together with the UKBC – that is in many ways world-leading. Over the last few years the UK and Ireland have won the WBC every year, with the current World Champ, Gwilym Davies, having won for us last year in Atlanta. So support your country’s emerging coffee culture (wherever you’re from in the UK!), and John Gordon, in the World Barista Championship this year!

And if you can’t make it, but love coffee anyway – do yourself a favour, and check out a great cafe near you, by checking the Good Coffee Map UK …Or if you’re in London, specifically the London Coffee Map!

There’s also the ‘Unofficial WBC Blog’ for all the latest news surrounding the event!

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