Enter Dave stage left…

Tomorrow is a very important day for the coffee industry as we welcome one of our greatest contributors to our odd little microcosm. David Walsh of the otherblackstuff.ie starts work tomorrow at Marco and I know a lot of people in the industry are delighted that we finally have him on board. Dave’s been a huge influence on my career and I thought there’d be no better way to welcome him in than by compiling my “Best of Dave” moments from the last few years.

Welcome to the cabaret Dave, delighted you could make it!

Boards.ie Group buy; The Boards.ie group buy is a simple concept whereby “boardsies” share the cost of shipping to enable themselves to sample coffees from far away roasteries with excellent reputations. I’m not sure this was Dave’s idea but I am sure he’s been the driving force behind getting coffee treats from Intelligentsia, Supreme, Coffee Collective, 49th parallel, Terroir and many others to our shores. The fun part is always post-pick up when the forum thread becomes a week-long cupping. Dave has always been there to advise and guide coffee lovers throught the joys of the worlds best roasteries and helped the group-buy grow to the extent that it is now nearly too popular to organise. Nearly.

Cupping championships; Dave’s blog had always been admired by industry folk but always with the caveat that he had never really put his reputation on the line in any reputable public arena. When he then decided to enter the 2009 Cup Tasting Championships there was a sense of “now we’ll see what he’s made of”. It turns out that Dave was made of “eight correct cups in less than 4 minutes” and “second in the World Cup Tasting Finals”. That clears that up then.

Coach Dave; When I first met Dave it was clear that he could taste coffee, or at least do a really good job at bluffing his way through it. So when it came to entering the IBC I enlisted his help and he agreed to come by and pick holes in what I was doing. I joked that if I managed to win the IBC I’d take him to Atlanta with me and he nodded in reluctant agreement. Unfortunately we managed to win and that left him with the task of asking his wife to let him disappear off to the other side of the world with a new born whilst I was left to explain to my better half that my “plus one” was a scientist from Waterford who liked coffee in his spare time and she’d be paying her own way to Atlanta. The highlights of my time with coach Dave are too many to mention but the definite lowlight was screaming at eachother about cup positions when we had no coffee to use 2 weeks before we left for the States. Heady days.

IBC2010: I don’t think Dave’s ever gotten full credit for his performance at IBC, to this day it is my favourite performance from any barista that I’ve seen, and he wasn’t even a barista. He spoke about all the important things, had a risky but exciting sig drink, ticked boxes but in a fresh and innovative way and even managed to use freshly “squeezed” raw milk from his Uncles farm. On another day Dave would have won. In another more accurate way, he did.

Failures; Dave has  had many successes in his coffee life but I’ll always fondly remember his utter failures, if only to make him seem more human. The infamous meat jug created for the Absurd Latte Art Challenge was a lowlight (apparently beef is reluctant to form a spout), and his insistance that I (i) insult the judges (ii) draw place mats on a paper table cloth and (iii) create the worlds first oyster-espresso sig drink will be forever seared in my mind. The mother of all suggestions has to be last Mays launch of electrolosis espresso which had all the characteristics of  molten lead and battery acid.

Tastings at 3FE; We do a lot of events at 3FE and having Dave on hand to lead our first foray into public cupping was a huge help to us in our early days. Watching a non-industry person take to leading an event like this was really inspiring for us all and our customers were always impressed by his knowledge and ability to explain each cup in detail to even the most novice of coffee drinkers. Let it be also known that Dave was also our very first guest barista and once ushered the imortal lines “for fuck’s sake, of course your doing filter…”

Dave showing them the light…

Passing it on; This was a great idea. It took an outsider to pull all corners of the coffee industry together. A swap agreement that had coffee wizzing around the world not only had a wonderful feel-good-factor but also led to one of the few adult conversations I’ve seen on roast profile and coffee preferences. I hope it goes again, I regret being unable to join in.

Stats of Excellence; Dave took an analytical researchers mind to the Cup of Excellence and for a few moments had us all petrified that we were all as predictable as πr². The post outlined past results and predicted the upcoming Brazilian COE. Forget that he got it wrong and remember that he was bold enough to have a stab.

London trip; This was WAY back in the beginning and we took a trip to London town to meet the coffee heroes at Square Mile.  Looking back at that day now I remember meeting a load of really cool coffee folk that went on to become Gwilym WBC Champion, James Dose Espresso, Peter Kaffeine, Ross Browns of Brockley Undisputed Heavyweight MC of the World, Dale Hasbean Barista Hero and no doubt many other soon-to-be high achievers in the coffee game. Dave that day took over the tasting board and elbowed his way to the front to proclaim “Roast Beef” in large letters. He also nearly killed me by filling me full of espresso (I’d never seen anyone drink so much) and insist on pints and an overnight stay in Stansted Airport. As sharp a learning curve as anyones ever had.

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4 thoughts on “Enter Dave stage left…

  1. David Walsh says:

    You are very kind.

    Electro-spro may someday see a return, if only we can choose a more suitable electrode material.

    I’ll also remember the London trip for you first telling me (and Fergus) you were entering the barista competition (on the train from Stansted to London). It meant little to me at the time, and I probably didn’t give you much chance, but in hindsight… been quite a ride. Even with the non-ambidextrous portafilters 🙂

  2. Howard says:

    Nice post Colin! I’ve no doubt Dave will do well nice to know he is still human 🙂

  3. AndyS says:

    Colin, thank you for posting this. I already knew that Dave was somewhat of a prodigy, but I didn’t realize just how awesome a character he is!
    Dave, congrats on your career move. After this buildup, anything coming from you that’s less than sheer genius will be somewhat of a letdown. 🙂 But I suspect you will find a way to not disappoint us!

  4. Marie says:

    Great post Colin, I completely forgot about alot of them!

    My over-riding memory of Dave in his quest for the perfect cup of coffee was about 3 years ago and I had bought Dave a new espresso machine and grinder as a gift (don’t ask what they were all I know is they were red and my kitchen is blue!!). Anyway they arrived one Friday afternoon whilst I was at work and I came home at about 6.30 that evening to find Dave at the kitchen table with the new machine dismantled all over the kitchen, water everywhere, newspapers all over floor (I think he thought this helped the flooding situation) and him standing in the middle of it all in his shorts looking baffled. It was like a scene from “A Beautiful Mind”!!

    I remember cursing him for “ruining” the new machine before I even managed to get home to see it but it looks like all the madness has finally paid off!!

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