19 & 20 MARCH 2016
The SCAE Brewers Cup heats took place at One Church in Brighton this past weekend. Our roasters Simon and Anthony were in the thick of the competition – a challenging environment to find the UK’s best brewers.. but perhaps not the most exciting spectator sport.
The UK Brewers Cup is the chance for competitors to show their skills and understanding of what makes a good brew. Whilst the aim seems simple, there’s a lot that goes into it – an understanding of extraction and brew ratios, the roasting process, as well as presentation, customer service, delivery, uniformity of brews and fundamentally just being able to make it taste delicious!
The heats called for two rounds: a compulsory service and an open service.
For the compulsory service, competitors prepared three beverages utilising whole bean coffee provided to them. The purpose was to see who could brew the tastiest coffee with what they had, using a brew method of their choice. Whilst for the open service, competitors could choose a coffee and brew method with the accompaniment of a presentation.
For the compulsory service, the Climpson’s game plan was to keep it simple. Both Simon and Anthony approached the compulsory service quite similarly – by using their particular method they use for all the production roasts in checking for quality and consistency. Using standard cupping protocols they dialled in by first cupping and refracting the coffees to understand their solubility (to determine grind setting) and flavour notes (brew method and ratio). Adjusting the grind setting and keeping everything else the same meant there is less room for error. Then the trick was to brew this three times, looking for consistency and taste.
The open service was where the ‘fun’ began. The brewer could have their own take; use their favourite coffees and be as creative as they liked.
Simon and Anthony obviously work very well together so it was no surprise that on a blind cupping they both selected the same coffee: an absolute stand out – a washed Sudan Rume from Las Margaritas in Colombia.
This is a rare varietal that originated from the Sudanese/Ethiopian border offering the best of both worlds, East African citrus with the complexity of Colombian terroir. Las Margaritas is a large farm spread across two mountains and the geography of the farms are steep so have the advantage to grow different varietals in different altitudes.
Sudan Rume has been in production for only one year creating a low, very young yield. In this particular area there is not a lot of rain and the resulting coffee has not a lot of mucilage on it. When we visited in August last year there were 4500 trees in total lot but only 800 trees in production. This is Rigoberto Herrera’s latest project and is very much in the experimental phases of growing, however their forward thinking approach to picking, selecting and processing aid in achieving a high quality and an utterly delicious coffee. In Colombia this was a winner on the cupping table, and we would even go as far as saying the best coffee we tasted this year.
THE BREW METHOD:
This is where the two differ - Anthony is a fan of the Kalita Wave and Simon of the V60. Anthony is pro Kalita Wave for its flatbed brewing system that produces more even extractions. Simon on the other hand is a V60 fanboy for its clean, consistent results and as the most comparable method to cupping.
It is all riveting stuff as a competitor or judge… but it is certainly not a spectator sport… watching people boil a kettle, grind coffee, then pour said water on coffee is not necessarily my idea of a good time.
BUT what it does do is get you excited about a coffees story or the passions of why a barista chose this coffee to begin with. A geek fest? Maybe. It is also an area that is just getting started in the food and beverage world. You have wine and chef competitions, so why not coffee? Speaking to one of the other competitors he was quick to admit that these competitions were definitely for a certain type of person, and no one outside of the industry really quite gets it, nor would you ever openly admit on a date that you enter a coffee brewing competition…