Our very own Stacey Barber competed in the UK Brewers Cup competition in May. She made it to the final 6! She puts her experience on paper with stories of the heats, some serious soul searching, the love of Geisha and tips for the budding barista!
So, I have finally come back down to earth enough to actually be able to put pen to paper and share my incredible Brewers Cup experience.
It all started with me absolutely, totally and utterly falling in love with my coffee. From the very first cupping I knew that was the coffee I wanted, I was actually a little panicked that one of the other baristas around the table that day would feel as strongly about my coffee as I did (and still do!).
I haven’t spent very long in the world of speciality coffee and I still get totally blindsided by various coffees on a regular basis but I knew this one was special. As cringe-worthy as it may be I found that this love made the whole process of getting ready for brewers cup totally exhilarating for me. I’m not going to lie and say I didn't find the experience incredibly stressful. At one point I became almost overwhelmed with the idea that I needed to do this coffee justice - I had to collect my thoughts and figure out how to proceed with bringing the best flavours out.
The main thing I learned is that I actually knew very little about really accentuating specific characteristics of a coffee! Through trial and error and hours of making small (think one degree Celsius at a time!) changes to my V60 variables (temperature, grind size, dose, yield etc) I finally found a recipe that delivered the experience I had that day at the cupping table. Watching my heats in Bristol made me wince. You would think that somebody was standing off screen with a shotgun making me compete. Luckily my coffee on the day was delicious, I placed third in my heat and was given another chance to show that love I was trying to convey!
I watched my performance several times and did a bit of soul searching. The morning before I flew up to Glasgow I was sitting on the end of my bed frantically polishing my piccolo glasses for the third time and it suddenly registered that I’d made it to the semi-finals i’d already showcased my wonderful coffee. This time I needed to showcase the passion that coffee had inspired in me. I smashed my speech out again and again and again, I stopped trying to speak better, stopped trying to be formal and decided to do everything I could to enjoy having those 10 minutes of having people listen to me talk about the story of Granja La Esperanza and tasting my brew! Excitement and anxiety are very similar and I think that I was lucky enough this time to have been able to channel that positively!
I think the massive grin I have on my face in every picture shows how much fun I had and a massive part of that was the incredibly supportive atmosphere in the backstage area. The finalists were all incredibly supportive of each and it made both days of the festival absolutely incredible!
If I was to give any advice to people wanting to explore the fantastic world of coffee brewing it would be to trust your palate. If there is something about your coffee that stands up and shouts at you then focus on highlighting that characteristic. Don't get too caught up in the numbers or thinking that a complicated recipe is going to produce a better result. All of my practice made me realise that my coffee style is quite simple and there is nothing wrong with that! At the end of the day its all about the flavour game and sharing coffee experiences. The most valuable asset a barista can have is an infectious enthusiasm for what they are doing!
One of my favourite things about coffee is the fact there is always so much to learn and my brain is constantly being bombarded with new experiences, ideas and tastes. This experience has left me feeling more exhilarated and inspired that ever. The standard of baristas at The Glasgow Coffee Festival was amazing and it was a joy to watch other such passionate baristas compete.
You can purchase our Geisha here
- and receive Stacey's winning recipe.