It's time for the final round of the UK Barista Championships—the country’s most prestigious coffee competition that sees baristas and coffee experts prepare a 15-minute routine, going head-to-head for the ultimate chance to compete at the World Championships in Melbourne.
Our E-commerce Coordinator (and friendly face of In My Mug) Midori Fujimoto, and Wholesale Account Manager Anson Goodge are competing in the finals this week. They trained with none other than Dale Harris, Head of Product & Business Development, and legendary 2017 World Barista Champion title. Anson and Midori will present three innovative drinks—a milk drink, a shot of espresso and their own signature beverage. It’s an exciting moment for the industry to have some fun and see some of the exciting, new trends hitting the specialty coffee world.
We caught up with Anson and Midori to hear more about their experience, how they’re preparing and what they’re brewing for the judges this week. Good luck team!
How did you first get involved in specialty coffee and what do you like most about being part of this industry?
Midori: I’ve always enjoyed the coffee culture and café scene. At my favourite coffee shop in Japan, the barista introduced me to a coffee that tasted like tea. I thought it was fascinating and hard to believe because I’d never tried anything like it before (a super fruity, naturally processed Ethiopian Sidamo Guji)! I wanted to know more about it, and that began my journey into specialty coffee. I started working in a café when I moved to Canada and have been in the industry since. I love that there’s no limit to what you can learn in specialty coffee; there’s always something new to discover.
Anson: I got into coffee over a decade ago, working in a restaurant kitchen and drinking a lot of coffee to stay caffeinated over long shifts. I’ve always been naturally curious, so one morning I asked the waitstaff if I could learn more about making coffee. That basically kickstarted the path and coffee career I’m on now—I enjoyed brewing it so much that I decided to start working in coffee and around coffee machines to learn everything I could and see where it might take me.
The industry is a lot larger and more diverse than people realise. There are so many different avenues you can take to explore a career in coffee and always so much more to learn, which is what keeps it interesting.
Why do you think coffee competitions are important to our industry, and what made you decide to compete in the UKBCs?
Anson: Coffee competitions are important to enabling the industry to develop and grow. They give baristas and roasteries the opportunity to invest in research and development, and often where you see crazy ideas or new coffee trends come from.
Competing is an opportunity to push your skills and tap into new areas of the coffee industry. If you’re working behind a coffee bar, or in a wholesale coffee role like mine, you’re not necessarily required to have super in-depth knowledge about the entire coffee industry or might not get to flex the same skills day-to-day as you get to when you’re competing. I like having a reason to continue learning and developing my skills, and exploring new parts of the industry.
Midori: I’ve always enjoyed competing and getting to meet so many people in the industry, learn from each other and taste lots of interesting and rare coffees. Something I’ve noticed in my experience is that the industry, especially at the competition level, is still quite white and male dominant. I want to show people that women can compete, and win, these competitions. I hope to inspire more women to compete and see that they’re also capable.
Tell us more about your routine and what you want to show the judges.
Midori: I focused on sensory elements throughout my routine, using an amazing Panama Geisha from Finca Deborah. It’s the best espresso I’ve tasted in my life, not exaggerating! I want to showcase how amazing the coffee is through the sensory experience you have while enjoying it, and how far the coffee industry has evolved in our ability to produce and roast amazing flavour profiles.
Anson: I wanted to touch on sustainability within the hospitality industry. Competitions are a great place to communicate fresh ideas. Those don’t always have to be innovative towards brewing, processing or roasting, but also innovative in the industry in general. Sustainability in coffee is becoming a lot more prominent, so I wanted to touch on a few ideas that I think are thought-provoking and make people consider coffee consumption in a different way.
What coffee did you choose to compete with and why?
Anson: Midori and I are both using new coffees from Hasbean—two incredible Panama Geishas from Finca Deborah called Illumination and Terroir. Our team has known this producer, Jamison Savage, for many years and appreciate his family’s approach to quality and environmental and social sustainability.
I did a blind tasting to select my competition coffee, so it’s awesome to have landed on such a rare, delicious coffee. I was looking for something exciting and interesting. I didn't know anything about these prior, but ended up choosing the Illumination for its distinctive, unique, fruity characteristics. It’s really clean and has been fun and interesting to practice with.
These Geishas are award-winning lots. Illumination placed 2nd in the 2017 World Brewers Cup and 2nd and 4th in the 2019 World Barista Championship, so I’m excited or the judges to try these.
How do you think the specialty coffee scene is evolving? What changes do you hope to see within the world of coffee or in coffee competitions?
Midori: Coffee competitions can be tough to get into. You pay a fee to enter, and you typically need to purchase great coffee to practice and compete at a certain level. We’re lucky we have that support from Hasbean and can work with someone like Dale to prepare. But I hope that coffee competitions can become more accessible, whether by reduced entry fees or giving people mentorship and training opportunities so that there are more paths for people to get involved.
Anson: There’s so much great thinking and ideas coming out of competitions, I’d like to see more of those trickle their way down into the industry. There’s been a big push for more quality in the last few years. I hope the next big pushes are in the direction of sustainability, and understanding and improving our footprint, both at the farm but also what we actively do at our cafés day-to-day.
What’s cool about the industry is that we’re seeing specialty pop up in a lot more places, not just in cafés. It’s great that you’re now able to go to a pub, hotel or restaurant and experience quality, delicious coffee that’s just as good as any specialty shop.
What is your advice for new baristas or those new to the industry who want to learn the craft?
Anson: Focus on the basics and don’t overthink it. The hardest part of competing as a beginner is the fear of the unknown, and the best way to overcome that is to keep it simple, stick to what’s important and focus on executing the basics really well.
Midori: Don’t judge coffee by its label alone. A lot of people think they may not like a certain origin or process. My advice is to keep brewing and trying as much coffee as you can. You’ll always find something new and different.
What’s your favourite way to brew coffee at home?
Midori: I like a Moccamaster! It’s easy to brew, and I like to make a big batch of it to share with my flatmates and tell them more about the flavours or origins of each one.
When you’re not brewing at home, where is your favourite place to get a coffee?
Midori: Esther’s in Stoke Newington. I first visited about six years ago and tried a delicious Hasbean coffee, a roastery I didn’t know at the time! They do a great brunch and I love to head there on the weekends.
Anson: I go to Popham’s more than any other café, both for the pastries and for the great coffee.