The great Coffee Countdown to find the best baristas in the world has started. Applications for the annual Coffee Masters tournament closed this week and coffee shops and roasters across South and East London are now anxiously waiting to find out if they have made the shortlist.
17 carefully selected contenders will compete in seven disciplines, all essential skills when it comes to producing the perfect perc. The contest is part of the London Coffee Festival, which will take at the Old Truman Brewery near Spitalfields in early April.
Professional baristas should be able to identify every single scent in a cup of coffee and easily tell one cup from another. The competitors will be offered six cups of coffee, three minutes to taste them and memorise the order of the cups. Then the cups are shuffled. The task is to taste the coffee and return the cups in the original order within two minutes.
This discipline tests the baristas’ ability to choose the right grinding and brewing method for a particular kind of coffee. The competitors will be able to choose one of six coffees, presented already in the cupping round. The brewing methods are called ‘alternative’ or ‘slow’ techniques; Chemex, Aeropress or V60.
3. Latte Art
This is probably the most comprehensive test, which involves the challenge of creating various ‘art designs’ on top of milk-based drinks. The designs will be determined according to a roll of the dice. Judges look at the visual appearance of the drink’s surface, the contrasts and quality of the milk.
In nine minutes or less, the baristas will have to produce an order of 10 coffee-based drinks.
5. Signature Drink
The baristas will have to present their very own original coffee drink based on three or more ingredients.
6. Espresso Blend
A semi-final competition which involves creating a special espresso blend mixing the varieties from The Cupping round
Participants will have six cups of coffee to taste and a world map to show where the coffee beans from each cup are originally from.
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The London Coffee Festival is likely to strike a chord with East Londoners because of the strong speciality coffee culture in the area.
“It is a cultural thing, East London seems to be tripping over with new shops, new ideas, and the rents here are cheap enough to let these ideas flourish,” said Ben, a friendly barista from Tiny TY. “When you move to West London, you’re immediately striken by high rents, and also a different mindset. For many people, East London serves as a gateway to the City, so a quick coffee on their way to work is just what they need. In the West, most of the businesses are older and more traditional. It is hard to break into their market.”
Tiny TY is based in Shoreditch’s Boxpark shopping mall. Along with high-quality coffee drinks and a variety of desserts free from gluten, dairy and refined sugar, they also sell the latest edition of the London Coffee Guide book.
While top roasters wait to find out if they have made it to the shortlist of the competition, East London Lines has compiled its own collection of caffeine destinations.
Climpson & Sons
Their coffee beans can be found in many shops across London, but the real spirit of these Hackney-based roasters can be experienced in their Broadway Market Cafe. With the roastery itself located within walking distance, this spot serves freshly roasted coffee in every form you like – from espresso and cappucino to the ‘alternatives’ – V60, Aeropress and a rare yet remarkable cold brew. A variety of sandwiches is available.
67 Broadway Market E8. Open seven days a week.
One of their most experienced baristas, Jaya, has applied to take part in the Coffee Masters competition this year, something which she said she had intended to do for several years. “I wanted to explore the world of coffee competition but have always been apprehensive and had time constraints that made the application and training process difficult to manage.
“Coffee Masters is the one competition that I feel is a realistic portrayal of a coffee professional’s skills and knowledge. The structure is fun and exciting. ”
Nude coffee roasters
The 100% local coffee roasters are based on Hanbury street, right next to the Old Truman Brewery. Their roastery is often closed during weekdays, when the beans are being prepared. However, their flagship coffee shop on the opposite side of the street is open. They serve a traditional variety of black and white coffee drinks as well as the ‘alternative’ brewing methods such as V60 and Aeropress. The latter ones are more expensive, reaching 4 pounds per cup. They serve their own espresso blends as well as a choice of single origins, plus brunch pastries, salads and rolls.
25 and 26 Hanbury Street, London E1. Open seven days a week.
Ozone Coffee roasters
Originally coming from New Zealand, this is a cafe based within a roastery, which makes your regular visit for a coffee resemble a tour into the coffee industry. The process of roasting can be observed from the balcony of the ground floor as well as in the basement. so coffee lovers can observe nearly every single coffee-brewing method available. Lunches, brunches, desserts are available. They also host barista classes.
11 Leonard St, London EC2. Open seven days a week.
Taylor St Baristas
This chain, which roasts its coffee in Deptford, has chosen a ‘coffee-to-go’ format for most of its spots. Their shop in Canary Wharf has a few tables and seats available.
“Here we serve up to 1,300 customers a day. It is probably our busiest shop,” said manager Johnny. The chain employs talented baristas from all over the world. Putting aside their expertise in coffee-making, they are all exceptionally friendly and eager to help you with your choice, consult you on brewing methods, or simply chat about coffee. Buy a bag of beans – get a free coffee. Filter highly recommended.
8 South Colonnade, Canary Wharf E14. Open Monday – Friday.
Another brand which originated in New Zealand. This massive roastery, warehouse and coffeeshop is located very close to Dalston junction station. There are two floors with good lighting, a lot of space, which would satisfy even an introvert’s sense of privacy – an excellent place for freelancers to work. The roastery is separated from the first floor by a glass wall, Customers are encouraged to step inside the roastery and make their own coffee. Upstairs, coffee making classes are held on demand. A variety of coffee drinks, including alternative brewing methods, and a choice of pastries and light lunch options are available.
55 Dalston Lane, E8. Open seven days a week.
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