This years Swedish Brewers Cup and Cupping championships were held at the Fast Food fair in Stockholm. I was tempted to enter the cupping, but decided not to, especially since there were already four people from Da Matteo entering. That didn’t stop me from entering the Brewers Cup though, with a total of three (with myself included) from us competing. The Cupping championships were a very exciting one, and in the end Tobias Palm from Johan&Nyström was crowned a worthy winner! All the best of luck to him in Nice this year!
In all honesty, I entered the Brewers Cup for all the wrong reasons hence me not winning. At least that’s what I tell myself. Making it to Melbourne was more intriguing than to compete, and competing to do it together with our own Ellen who has never competed before was more fun than training in order to nail it. Needless to say, I didn’t make it all the way. But two things needs to be said regarding this: first of all; all competitors were really good, and regardless if I had been prepared and practiced like crazy, the competition was fierce! The second thing is that the competition itself was a mess.
The first round was a compulsory serve where no one was to know what coffee was used. We did have one day in order to train on the coffee, however upon arrival the sponsor grinders were home barista tools and not anything like professional ones, and thus that parameter was out the window. At least it was the same for everyone. The glamour you witness in the picture above is the competitor area behind stage, where three baristi at a time are preparing their drinks, with one grinder each and sharing a water boiler that was sort of half functioning. At least it was the same shitty situation for everyone, and everyone made it through to the individual presentation, as the total score showed who won the competition.
My own presentation was directed to the idea that Speciality Coffee needs to be approachable. Hence my direction to the crowd, something that the judges didn’t like (I wasn’t the only one though). But even if I understand the point they are making, a few of us wanted to take the opportunity to reach out to the public in such an environment that is inviting to do so. The idea of competitions are to educate and attract, as well as develop the Speciality Coffee industry. This is where I might disagree with the judges.
Second from Da Matteo Stockholm was my sparring partner, Ellen Klintenberg, one of the most solid baristi in Stockholm I know of actually. This was her first competition, and I know she was very nervous really wanting to do the Nekisse she was presenting justice! I tasted the coffee, and it was great, but her presentation was one of the most solid I’ve seen. I would very much like to see her do more competitions in the future, cause I think she really has what it takes to win! The picture above is taken just as she has finished her presentation, and Erik (Rosendahl of Drop Coffee/SCAE, MC) is asking her a rather “funny” question, and Ellen is asking him if he is “f-in stupid”? Grrrrl power! The sky is the limit for this barista, and I am pretty sure she can win if she dares compete again!
A lot of great competitors went on and off stage, but as the clock struck four, the exhibition closed down and everyone had to leave. This was yet another disasterous moment in the competition, just after the fact that more than one barista had to break their performance due to technical collapse of the water boiler. Reggie Elliot was on stage second to last, doing his presentation only in the presence of other competitors and without a microphone. The picture shows the last seconds of his presentation, a rather dramatic finale to his routine that unfortunately cost him points due to overtime. What little I heard from the presentation though, I found it very solid, and I feel terrible for Reggie who had stressed all day to get in time and wrap his head around the coffee due to a cold… A true trooper!
Last out was Da Matteo’s Patrik Rolf Karlsson, competing on our spanking new Rwandan coffee. About this time, the workers at the exhibition hall were asking us to “f-in leave, will ya” and Patrik did a solid routine with myself as time keeper and two judges as only witnesses. He was happy about his routine though, and did everything he had set out to do, so with that in mind I think the context didn’t matter too much, but it’s a set up I don’t think any competitor deserves.
In the end the judges, Mats Carlson of Kaffeknappen and Daniel Remheden of Love Coffee, crowned one of my favorite people in coffee, Nico Castagno, the winner!
Nico was a combination of both nailing all his descriptors as well as addressing the judges in a very charming and approachable way. I’d like to add, that is the way he is as a barista in general, which I think just goes to show why he deserved the title! Nico will represent Sweden in Melbourne, and I wish him the best of luck!!
Unfortunately, he will not be able to prove his success as the Swedish Brewer of the year due to the fact that the trophy was lost by the organizers. And that basically is the straw that broke the camels back. I have seriously never seen a competition this poorly executed. Three people needs to be mentioned as troopers keeping the competition worth its salt regardless; the two judges already mentioned, who had to do so much more except judging (which is not supposed to be on a judges plate at all…) and Erik Rosendahl for doing the best and funniest MC’ing I’ve seen in a competition, keeping everyones spirits at a top level. Also worth mentioning is the fact that these rather horrid circumstances really brought out the best of the barista community, where everyone just helped and coached each other with great heart! And that is what it’s all about….
NP: The Shamen Ebeneezer Goode
Disclaimer: I actually competed in the first ever Brewers Cup, organized in 2011 as a filler for the lack of speakers at the “symposium” the Swedish chapter of SCAE had organized. This was a competition that basically just got its rules from the printer, so it was very improvised. Love this little blog post from my former employer in Perth!