Barista Championships do a great job of adding a bit of glamour to the job. We get kitted out with a Garth Brooks-esque head set, wear our Sunday best and take to the stage to do our thing. We get to talk coffee to people who want to hear coffee, and then make coffee and taste coffee. Its a step away from scrubbing dried milk, discarding other peoples half-eaten food and, for some of us, taking bucket-loads of rain to the face via the wonder that is the south-westerly wind.
It was with great pleasure that I managed to dodge what was a filthy day of rain by the Liffey today, and ascended the M1 over the border to the Historic town of Hillsborough to watch the Northern Ireland Heats of the UKBC. The little that I know of the Northern Ireland coffee scene suggests that the two big hitters are Clements from Belfast and Cafe Krem in Newry, so this seemed like a neutral venue of sorts.
I had scheduled the visit for tomorrow but due to a high number of withdrawals the competition was shortened to just Wednesday. In fact in the end there were only six competitors at the competition.
I must also point out that due to unavoidable circumstances, coupled with what seemed like an unnecessarily drawn-out competition, I didn’t get too see all of the performances. Lucky for me that the two of those performers I did see finished first and second, so I got a good idea of the standard overall.
I dont want to “review” their performances (I’m sure one will appear here
soon) but I will say congratulations to the winner, Neli Patkova from Cafe Krem. All the performers were really good but I’m trying to focus on my own game, rather than anyone elses so I’ll just let you in on the few little things I took on board.
Firstly, I was nervous. very nervous. even though I was just a spectator there was a sense of tension in the room. Those I spoke with seemed to feel it too and although it did calm down as the acts progressed, it was always there. This was my first visit to a competition so I’m not sure if they’re all like this but I’m glad I went today because I feel a little more prepared for the atmosphere.
The second thing that struck me was that mistakes WILL be made. They might only be small, but a mistake is always interpreted by the reaction. Plan for mistakes and negotiate your way out of them thoughtfully and calmly. Check.
I also realised that the phrase “be yourself” isn’t just a tired cliche. Those that were comfortable and unrehearsed (in a very rehearsed kind of way) came across a lot better. Its something lots of people have said to me but until today it never really sank in.
Perhaps the most important thing I took away however was the knowledge that all the tiny details that I’m putting on the long finger will really make or break the performance. As soon as I get them nailed I can start to really make some progress.
So overall I was glad I went. The turnout on both sides of the stage was pretty low but hopefully when our turn comes down south we can go that little bit further. It may not have been as much of an occasion as some of the other UK regionals but its great to see such a tight and strong coffee culture up north. Well done Neli.