2014 United Kingdom Barista Competition Semi-Finals

Welcome to our recap coverage from Semi-Final Saturday at the 2014 United Kingdom Barista Championship. It is our pleasure and privilege to serve as official media partners here at the UKBC in association with the Speciality Coffee Association of Europe–UK Chapter. We’re reporting to you live from London. 

Our coverage here in London is made possible by direct support from our friends and partners at Cafe Imports and BUNN. The entirety of our 2014 competition coverage–regionals, nationals, and the 2014 World Barista Championship in Rimini, Italy–is anchored by the direct support of Nuova Simonelli, whose Aurelia T3 serves as the official espresso machine of the USBC and WBC.

All of this coverage is culled from the @SprudgeLive Twitter feed. Please follow @SprudgeLive for our leading competition coverage live from London.

All photos by Zachary Carlsen for Sprudge.com.

Imogen Ludman, Six Eight Kafé, Birmingham @imlud @sixeightkafe


Ms. Ludman competes here at #UKBC2014 using a Bolivian Caturra coffee, naturally processed by the farmer personally @imlud @sixeightkafe–“Welcome to Imogen’s sweet shop”, @imlud tells her judges, and her stage set features bright colors and pastel candies; sugars abound.

Espresso notes for @imlud–“red apple… bitterness of dried apple skin, controlled stone fruit”, pairing shots with a cherry drop candy and highlighting its confectionary sweetness. 


Homemade cascara lollipops for @imlud‘s signature drinks–echoing that sweet shop motif. Judges are dipping those lollies in brewed cascara for a kind of “cascara two ways.”


And what’s a sweet shop without a bit of cotton candy? @imlud‘s making it live on stage in a bright pink cotton candy maker, portioned for each judge. She finishes her routine wishing her judges a good day; “I know you have a long day ahead of you.”

Dale Harris, Has Bean, Midlands @acousticcoffee


Mr. Harris competes at #UKBC2014 using @hasbean‘s El Salvador Finca Argentina, a washed bourbon from producer Alejandro Martinez–“honey-like body, blood orange, caramel”.

He’s very intentional with his judges: “score this, but don’t taste anything ’til I ask you to.” This is very much an origin/producer themed routine–@acousticcoffee with a lot of reverence for his producer at Finca Argentina.


“Coffee farming is a mixture of tradition and logistics” Mr. Harris says, in an early top quote of the day. Find “Jasmine soft aroma, butterscotch” in his cappuccinos.

Mr. Harris has got a massive pipette on stage for his sig drink, filled with espresso and a syrup made from cane sugar, then adds “emulsion of venezuelan cacao.”

“Quality begins at the farm, not here”–@acousticcoffee then calls time prior to the 15 minute mark.

Steve PearsonDevon Coffee, Devon @coffeedevon


Mr. Pearson competes using a coffee from Dukunde Kawa coffee from Rwanda, with notes of “grapefruit acidity… medium bitterness… dark chocolate”.

Lovely sparse table setting from Mr. Pearson, with all-white flatware, napkins and cups–it makes his fruit and coffee on stage really pop.


Mr. Pearson makes cappuccinos using organic milk “from just 5 miles away from my coffee shop” in Devon. “Cocoa on the front, sweet milk chocolate” notes in his capps.

Cocktail inspired signature drink here from Mr. Pearson–flamed orange peel, cocktail coupe glasses.

Don Altizo, Baxter Storey, London @donaltizo @Baxter_Storey


Mr. Altizo is the first competitor from London here at #UKBC2014–he’s the head barista and barista trainer at @baxter_storey; a large catering company based here in London.

Mr. Altizo competes at #UKBC2014 with a washed red bourbon caturra from “the volcanic soil” of Guatemala, with acidity like “a German Riesling wine” and notes of dark chocolate, green grapes.


Mr. Altizo has neat slate table settings for his judges featuring information, with circles for cups. He’s up-dosing espresso by 1g for his cappuccinos with ” flavors of white chocolate and toffee”.

Laura Holmes, Small Batch Coffee Company, Brighton @1laurakh @SmallBatchCC


“I’ve chosen to give you no information regarding the coffee itself, so that you can experience the coffee like a customer would. I’m going to recreate a cafe environment for you–it’s certainly bustling enough in here!”

Ms. Holmes starts by pulling a shot over ice cream, leaving it to melt and fuse throughout the routine. The ice cream itself was made in Brighton and is flavored with her #UKBC2014 coffee.


Ms. Holmes starts judges off with cappuccinos–“in the cafe, a drink like this would be a likely first opportunity”. While preparing these drinks she offers her judges a newspaper to read, complete with crossword puzzle. Cappuccino notes: “raspberry danish pastry, up-front sweetness, creaminess (almost custard-like) and milk chocolate.”

Ms. Holmes’ signature drink is “deliberately simple, approachable”–coffee ice cream & espresso in a martini glass. The raspberry and grapefruit notes are referenced by a lining around the glass rim of citrus and fruit.

At the last moment @1laurakh introduces her coffee: Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Grade 1 natural process, heirloom varieties #ukbc2014 @smallbatchcc

Jason GonzalezColonna and Small’s, Bath @OmNomNomCoffee @colonna_smalls


Next it’s Jason Gonzalez, the first of two competitors at #ukbc2014 representing Colonna and Small’s in Bath. Mr. Gonzalez competes using pre-ground espresso shots, dosed into individual mason jars.

It’s Rwandan coffee from the Mahembe washing station here in Mr. Gonzalez’s routine–washed bourbon, from producer Justin Musabyiama.  “I didn’t choose this coffee as a novelty–I chose it because it’s valuable to me as a barista.”

Mr. Gonzalez’s espresso: “a smacky acidity, stonefruit, medium sweetness, dry lemon peel, apricot, mulling spices”.


Shades of US Big Western champ @charlesbabinski in Mr. Gonzalez’s approach to pre-grinding his espresso? Signature drink takes an infusion of vanilla, raisin, rhubarb, citrus and saffron. “The vanilla emphasizes those spicy aromatics.”

Mr. Gonzalez’s signature drink vessel is then swept around the edges with Mahembe coffee oil and condensed milk to mimic the coffee experience; milky sweet first sip followed by an espresso.

Maxwell Colonna DashwoodColonna & Small’s, Bath @Colonna_Smalls


Mr. Dashwood competes using a washed caturra & colombia variety coffee from Colombia–it arrived here in the UK only 2.5 weeks ago.

To much whooping in the crowd, and in one of the most distinctive moments from the day, Mr. Daswhood has donned a lab coat, glasses and lecture pointer to discuss water science here at the show. Calcium & magnesium, binding energy, buffers, acids into alkalines… it’s a lecture moment with Prof. Dashwood. “Water doesn’t just affect a barista–it affects everyone who’s ever had a coffee”.

“Strawberry, cocoa, and vanilla” in @colonna_smalls‘ cappuccinos here at #UKBC2014–Mr. Dashwood is an obvious professional here on stage – workflow, conservation of movement, station maintenance.

“White grape and black grape, caramel and cocoa” in Mr. Dashwood’s espressos–flavor notes he moves on to mimic in his sig drinks featuring two hot infusions using different grape varieties–Helena white grapes and midnight beauty black grapes–“a rather saucy variety”.

Joe Meagher, Flat Caps Coffee, Newcastle @FlatCapJoe


Mr. Meagher competes at #UKBC2014 using a coffee roasted by @hasbean and from Finca Loayza in Boliva. You can learn more about Mr. Meagher’s coffee by clicking here.  Medium body, high sweetness–“it’s one of the roundest espresso I’ve ever tasted.”

Mr. Meagher then shifts into cappuccino service–changes to a @MAHLKOENIG EK43 grinder and a natural processed coffee. These cappuccinos take Jersey milk from a local organic dairy farm in Newcastle and have “notes of vanilla and custard… like a chocolate roulade with a blueberry jam filling.”

Mr. Meagher’s signature drink is yet another processing switch, to the pulp natural Bolivia Loayza. He’s got a heat condenser onstage to help regulate heat, combining maltodextrin solution to thicken, a cascara reduction, honey soda, Madagascar chocolate, and natural cold brew coffee to this solution .

Estelle BrightCaravan Coffee, London @Estelle_Coffee @caravanexmouth


Ms. Bright competes with an Ethiopian coffee comprised of two distinct processing methods: natural and washed. This routine is an exploration of balance–coffees that aren’t inherently balanced, but achieve it when combined.

Ms. Bright’s espressos are 70% natural, 30% washed Ethiopian with notes of “ripe peach, juicy mandarin, grapefruit”. She presents the judges with a feather for tactile comparison to her espresso: “smooth, delicate & lingering.”

Cappuccino time! Hers come with notes of “malt biscuit and creamy white chocolate… a dessert-like coffee.” 


Ms. Bright competes using un-homogenized milk from Northiam Dairy in Kent–a favorite for top London cafes.

Tactile and visual anchoring throughout this routine–flavor notes buttressed by how Ms. Bright uses her physical space. This signature drink has an interactive component, with graphs, paintbrushes, wood blocks, and feathers. Judges are asked to paint their own glasses with peach jam.

The signature drink also includes Mandarin orange in an atomizer, grapefruit in an eye dropper, plus the painted peach jam–it’s a complex final product. 

Estelle comments: “sometimes we bombard consumers with small details & push them away instead of bringing them in.”

Ewan Osprey-Allan, Brew Lab, Edinburgh @glasgowbarista @brewlabcoffee


“A nice bright tangerine, grape acidity and cocoa powder bitterness” in Mr. Osprey-Allan’s espressos here at #ukbc2014, presenting notes of  “nice, dark toffee… maybe the kind that’s sat on in the sun and gone a wee bit squishy.”

His coffee is roasted by Has Bean, and is from Bolivia, marked as Finca Canton Uyunense. Learn more here.


He’s a cool customer, this Mr. Osprey-Allan–congenial with the judges but all business behind the machine. On the research process for @glasgowbarista‘s #ukbc2014 routine, a bit of honesty, and one of our favorite quotes from the weekend: “I had a chat with Mr. Google”.

Mr. Osprey-Allan’s sig drink: 0.1g citric acid, 3 teaspoons of liquid malt extract “designed to highlight acidity”.

Dan Fellows, Origin Coffee Ltd, Cornwall @DanFellows1 @origincoffee


Mr Fellows of @origincoffee competes here at #UKBC2014 with a Finca Los Altas Pacamara from Guatemala, part of the Fincas Mierisch family of farms.


“Peach and orange acidity, sweetness of cherry, mild bitterness of almond, flavor of red apple” in Dan’s espressos, followed by “strawberry malt milkshake” in his cappuccinos.

Heidi Beeton, Prufrock Coffee, London @hidingbeetle @PrufrockCoffee


Next up we’ve got Heidi Beeton, representing the much-loved Prufrock Coffee here in London. “I’ve always been a barista at heart; ever since I was a little girl making moka pots for my mum.”

Ms. Beeton competes with lactose free-milk (she herself is lactose intolerant). She’s added the enzyme lactase to break her milk into lactose and glucose. Minimalist music and script here from @hidingbeetle of @prufrockcoffee–sparse verbally, intensely focused.


Ms. Beeton’s coffee is Ethiopian; Suke Quto, from the Guji Zone, grown at 1800 MASL and roasted by Koppi in Sweden. “With time, my coffee knowledge has grown with me.” 

Ms. Beeton’s espressos: “greengage, dried apricot, after-finish of tea and a light body”–she’s remaking one of the shots now, with precious seconds ticking off.

Unfortunately the need to remake a shot put Ms. Beeton into the penalty balance, and then over the 16 minute limit. She is to be the only DQ of the day here at UKBC Semi-Finals, but much to her credit Ms. Beeton maintained composure and provided highly professional service through to the end of her routine.

Diana Johnston, Avenue G Cafe, Glasgow @Baristasaurus @avenue_g


The first of two competitors here at UKBC from Avenue G in Glasgow, Ms. Johnston competes using a gesha variety coffee–“grapefruit acidity, cocoa nib bitterness, grape, pineapple” as espresso. “This coffee is almost like the Pinot Noir of coffee–it’s very difficult to grow”.

“Bright, fruity, elegant, tropical” are notes in @baristasaurus‘ espressos; flavor notes that when taken to cappuccinos flip into something “creamy and silky”.


Signature drink for Ms Johnston: pineapple juice, soy lecithin, cooled espresso shots, lychee, glasses rimmed with grapefruit.

Aromatic foam tops Ms. @baristasaurus‘s espresso, with specific slurping instructions–foam, more foam. All foam errythang.

John Gordon, Square Mile Coffee Roasters, London @JohnGordon09 @squaremile


And next it’s last year’s UK champion, John Gordon, representing @squaremile in London. We’ve gone beyond a packed house here for Mr. Gordon’s routine, and into bedlam mode.


Mr. Gordon’s routine here at #ukbc2014 is modeled after “choose your own adventure” books–something Mr. Gordon grew up loving as a kid. He offers three different varieties of Ethiopian coffee to each judge, and has them plot their flavor path throughout his routine.

These coffees are isolated varieties of heirloom coffee from Ethiopia, denoted by number. It’s part of a brand new heirloom coffee isolation project located near Jimma. It is the first time we’ve ever heard of any of this, and we are of course wildly intrigued. More on this later.

Mr. Gordon has pre-ground all his espresso coffees here at #ukbc2014 using a modified snub-nose @mahlkoenig EK43 grinder. It sort of looks like the sawed-off shotgun of coffee grinders. 

Some barista competitors are a bit like athletes–there’s the X Factor element of grace and physical control. It’s safe to say that John Gordon is one such performer.


“Low-grade sweetness, a bit like tea–this is a very floral coffee”–John Gordon on his choose your own Ethiopian adventure coffee service.

Mr. Gordon’s sig drink: orange & lemon essential oils, cinnamon & coriander, lavender, quick-chilled & carbonated. It’s a riff on a classic cola recipe, and meant to echo the flavor complexity of his Ethiopian coffee.


Mr. Gordon calls time well shy of 15–big reaction in the crowd.

Emiliya Yordanova, Avenue G Café, Glasgow @eMilkinis @avenue_g


Emiliya Yordanova is the second competitor of the day representing @avenue_g in Glasgow. She’s competing with a “light to medium bodied espresso” from Guatemala.

Ms. Yordanova’s signature drink highlights her coffee’s “lemongrass aroma and juiciness”–lemongrass with white grape juice.


Emilya Yordanova calls time in advance of the 15 minute mark–time to clean and thank the judges.

Mark WilliamsRelish Food & Drink @wi11iamsmark @relishcornwall


Up now here at #ukbc2014 – it’s Mark Williams, representing Relish Food & Drink in Cornwall.

Mark’s cappuccinos retain the peach and apricot flavours of the espresso, plus its jasmine tea aftertaste. Mark Williams is using coffee throughout from the Hunda Oli Ethiopian espresso. 


Juice of roasted lemon takes the edge off the reduced panela syrup used in Mr. Williams’ signature drink.

Darryl Docherty, Artisan Roast, Edinburgh @artisanroast 


Mr. Docherty competes at #ukbc2014 using @artisanroast‘s Kenya Kiawamaruru–learn more, take some home.

Flavors of “pink grapefruit and juicy blackcurrant”–Mr. Docherty’s Kenya comes from Nyeri and is comprised of SL-28 and -34 varieties.


“Light lemon meringue, butterscotch sweetness and toffee, light jasmine and a malt linger” in Daryl Docherty’s cappuccinos. The dairy herd producing Mr. Docherty’s milk are fed a diet of grain byproducts from the Glengoyne distillery in the Highlands.

Salt and panela in Mr. Docherty’s signature drink–salt “suppressing the bitterness”, allowing the chocolate notes to come through.

Caspar Steel, J. Atkinson & Co., Lancaster @CremaTheCrop @coffeehopper


“From seed to cup, there’s a vast number of things that determine the final taste”–Caspar Steel.

Mr. Steel begins by presenting judges with a dry coffee sample–“give it a sniff, enjoy the fragrance.” Mr. Steel’s competing with the coffee from much-loved Finca Esperanza in Cauca, Colombia–Las Margaritas Gesha.


Finca La Esperanza was the first farm in Colombia to successfully cultivate Gesha coffee. This coffee from Las Margaritas was grown in volcanic soil 2000 MASL, and processed via 14 hours controlled fermentation.

Mr. Steel’s espressos come with notes of “apricot and lime”, and a “fine and silky mouthfeel.” Served in chilled cups.

Apricot and palm sugar reduction in @CremaTheCrop‘s signature drink, with Earl Grey tea spray to enhance bergamot notes. All drinks down by 14:22, giving Mr. Steel time enough to tidy his station briefly, thank the judges, and call *time*.

Alex Passmore, Origin Coffee Ltd, Cornwall @DaOriginAlex @origincoffee


Mr. Passmore–@DaOriginAlex, donchaknow – competes using an Ethiopian co-op coffee from Western Ethiopia, grown at 2000 MASL.

“Dark spice and jasmine initially” in @daoriginalex‘s Ethiopian espressos , presented to a frankly terrifying live version of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins “I Put A Spell On You”.


High ratio filter chemex, jasmine, and peach juice in Mr. Passmore’s signature drink. He calls time at what I’m frankly guessing was under 15 minutes–there’s no live timer. Let’s call it 14:45.

Chris Walton, Union Hand-Roasted / @EspressoChris @unionroasted

Chris Walton Union Hand-Roasted -United-Kingdom-Barista-Competition-2014

Our last competitor of the day today is Chris Walton, representing Union Hand-Roasted out of London.

Mr. Walton is a barista trainer for Union, and is competing today with 2 washed coffees in a 50/50 blend.

Chris Walton Union Hand-Roasted -Coffee-United-Kingdom-Barista-Competition-2014

“Tangerine, a lot of citrus and caramel” in Mr. Walton’s espressos. He begins this routine by talking his judges through each course, and what to expect. 

For his signature drink, he’s lowering the dose of his espresso, then combining it with a lemon/lime syrup in a Soda Stream and lemon juice to lower sweetness. The overall effect adds juiciness to his espresso, bringing out a pronounced malic acid that presents as apples and watermelon.


Sprudge London correspondent Nico Halliday (@NicoWhat) contributed to this reporting.