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The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - SEVEN DAYS | EATING OUT -

THE IR­ISH BARISTA CHAM­PI­ONSHIPS In a large con­fer­ence hall, a barista stands at a demo ta­ble with a head­set mi­cro­phone per­form­ing a re­hearsed rou­tine around a va­ri­ety of coffee drinks and tasks.

He’s sur­rounded by a group of judges, who are scrib­bling on clip­boards while vol­un­teers with stop­watches keep a hawk-eye on pro­ceed­ings. Amidst this drama, he looks cool as a cu­cum­ber.

This is the Avon­more Ir­ish Barista Cham­pi­onships fi­nals, which took place ear­lier this week at the Food & Bev Live event in Ci­ty­west, Dublin. The com­posed barista in ques­tion, Wo­j­ciech Tysler, works at Bew­ley’s and is a vet­eran of th­ese Cham­pi­onships.

I spot him be­ing in­ter­viewed im­me­di­ately af­ter his pol­ished rou­tine and I’m sur­prised to see that he’s a bit shell-shocked af­ter the pres­sure.

Im­me­di­ately af­ter­wards, I bump into Brian Birdy of Full Cir­cle Roast­ers, who tells me of his own ex­pe­ri­ence tak­ing place in the Cham­pi­onships a few years back. “I ab­so­lutely bombed!” he says. “It’s so much harder than it looks.”

Alan An­drews, CEO of Coffee Cul­ture and the Na­tional Co­or­di­na­tor of The Spe­cialty Coffee As­so­ci­a­tion of Europe Ir­ish chap­ter (scae.ie), ex­plains the judg­ing process to me. “There are eight judges al­to­gether; four sen­sory judges, two tech­ni­cal judges, one head judge and one shadow judge.”

Among the judges, I spot Mark Ash­bridge who, along­side his part­ner Bridgeen Bar­bour, runs Es­tab­lished Coffee in Belfast. “We’re look­ing for how the barista rep­re­sents and com­mu­ni­cates the coffee, and how that com­pares to how their drinks ac­tu­ally taste,” says Ash­bridge, af­ter the win­ners are an­nounced.

The head judge is a WCEcer­ti­fied judge Rouki­ate Del­rue from Gu­atemala. An­drews ex­plains, it’s her pres­ence that gives th­ese cham­pi­onships the ac­cred­i­ta­tion nec­es­sary to be recog­nised on the world stage. Food & Bev Live also played host to the Ir­ish heat of the World Brewer’s Cup (world­brew­er­scup.org), de­signed to seek out the best in fil­ter-coffee brew­ing us­ing devices such as V60, Aeropress and French press.

Tysler was one of six fi­nal­ists com­pet­ing in the Ir­ish Barista Cham­pi­onships, and even­tu­ally placed in third. In se­cond place was Proper Or­der Coffee Com­pany’s Niall Wynn, while in first place for the se­cond year in a row is Natalia Piotrowska.

When she won last year, she was barista in the bril­liant Castle­bar deli Café Rua. This year, she re­turned to the cham­pi­onships as founder of her own coffee con­sul­tancy com­pany, CCE Coffee Con­sul­tancy Events (cof­feecon­sul­tancy.com). She will once again rep­re­sent Ire­land on the world stage at the up­com­ing World Barista Cham­pi­onships in June.

The World Barista Cham­pi­onships will take place in the RDS as part of the SCAE and World of Coffee event on June 23rd-25th, in Dublin for the first time ever. As well as the Cham­pi­onships and the World Brewer’s Cup, there’ll be a host of fringe events tak­ing place out­side of the RDS through­out the week, such as The World Aeropress Cham­pi­onship and the World Coffee Throw­ing Cham­pi­onships. The Re:co Spe­cialty Coffee Sym­po­sium, a sort of Mad Sym­po­sium for coffee, will take place on the same week.

For the coffee crews in Ire­land, hav­ing the World Barista Cham­pi­onships here this year is a se­ri­ously big deal. Tom Stafford of Vice Coffee Inc. on Middle Abbey Street in Dublin puts it into per­spec­tive for me.

“Ev­ery­one is stoked to be host­ing the com­pe­ti­tion in June. It will see over 10,000 coffee

Ess­press your­self: the Ir­ish Barista Cham­pi­onships

del­e­gates de­scend upon Dublin for the week.”

And how will our flat whites, Aeropress brews and latte art com­pare with the stan­dards our es­teemed vis­i­tors up­hold?

“The coffee scene in Dublin ri­vals any other city in the world,” says Stafford.

An­drews of SCAE Ir­ish Chap­ter agrees, hav­ing seen a great change in the last 15 years of be­ing in­volved in coffee. “Not only are the baris­tas more knowl­edge­able, but the cus­tomers are more ex­pe­ri­enced and dis­cern­ing.”

Find out about June’s World of Coffee event on­line at world­of­cof­fee-dublin.com.

Aoife McEl­wain

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