Hi, I’m Dom & I’ve overseen the coffee & hot drinks department of Mettricks, since we opened back in 2013. Since working part-time in a small countryside café back in 2011 & first discovering the craft of making coffee, I developed a huge passion & decided I wanted to make a career of it. Over the years I went from teaching myself online/YouTube, to working alongside some top industry professionals before landing at Mettricks.
Last week, was the first regional heat of the 2017 UK Barista Championship, run by an international organisation called the SCA (Speciality Coffee Association).
Each Barista (14 in this South-East heat) gives a 15-minute presentation, bringing along a coffee they’ve chosen, & serving 3 rounds of espresso based drinks – an espresso round, a milk round, & a creative signature drink round – to 4 ‘sensory judges’. You’re scored on how your coffee tastes, your ability & accuracy of describing it, & your general knowledge & personality. The rulebook is around 14(!) pages long, & technical judges watch your every action meticulously & base additional scores on these. The competition itself is a slightly eccentric concept, but a lot of fun & a great way to improve your skills & knowledge, as well as meet a load of great people who all share a passion for coffee.
It’s something I’d followed on YouTube/live streams & wanted to do for a few years, but had some major wrist injury problems which had always put me off. And although not quite fully recovered, I decided a little last minute this year that so long as I didn’t want to bring along any 100kg grinders, I was up for it! My colleague James also entered which was great to have someone alongside as well as a double Mettricks representation.
I spent around 1 month during some evenings after work thinking up a theme, selecting a coffee, researching that coffee, dialling in recipes for it, creating a signature drink, putting together a presentation, & then practicing it. Most of this was spent during late, caffeinated evenings after hours at Mettricks Old Town, as well as a session up at the Union Roastery in London, who offered some great training support too.
I hadn’t quite put in as much practice as I’d have liked due to being so busy with other things, but had put in a fair amount, so when it was finally my time I felt fairly relaxed. I wore one of our discontinued Mettricks bright yellow aprons, & decked out the judges table with yellow cups/saucers, & felt really proud to be representing little old Mettricks on a national level with top industry people & online stream cameras watching on.
Around 2/3rds of the way into my routine all was going pretty well, feeling the pressure & nerves a little as well as the equipment feeling a bit awkward & very different to what I’d had available to practice on, but all going roughly to plan/time. Until when taking the espressos for my signature drink over to the judges table to add the ingredients I’d prepared, one slipped off the tray & smashed on the floor with an almighty crash. I quickly went through a few options in my head (including the nearest exit) & thought through the rules; glanced at my timer & realised if I was quick I could remake the espresso & add most but not all of the ingredients to my signature drink & serve it just within time limit.
In my routine, I’d planned to serve my last round of drinks with around 1 minute to spare & then deliver an outro speech to round off the presentation. Rather lucky that I had left this time, as I somehow managed to pull myself together & deliver my outro speech whilst remaking the dropped espresso & adding the ingredients (missed out the ice though so didn’t quite go to plan!), & finished right on the time limit (you’re allowed 60 seconds over but lose points heavily per second).
I had a load of great feedback & people congratulating me afterwards on making the recovery & carrying on which was nice. The scores were announced at the end of the day, & I came in at 4th place, which considering my first competition & the ‘incident’ I was pretty happy with. James did great also & came in at 8th place. The top 12 scores from the 4 regional heats go through to a semi-finals & finals round, before crowning a ‘UK Barista Champion’. There’s then a World Barista Championship, where each winner from 42 countries compete for a world title!
Depending on the scores in the other heats over the coming months, there’s a fair chance I may make it through to the semi-final… even if not, it was a super fun experience during which I learned a lot & met some great people, & will definitely be entering again next year!