The British champion goes forward to the world barista finals, and there is a lot to live up to. In 2007, the UK took the world championship for the first time with James Hoffmann winning in Tokyo, and this year the Republic of Ireland took the world title through Stephen Morrissey, a native of Dublin but now working his craft in London. (The current British barista champion, Hugo Hercod of the Relish deli in Wadebridge, holds a respectable tenth place in the world.)
It has always been a fascinating aspect of the championship organisers that baristas from all kinds of catering and hospitality outlet can take part, not just those from coffee houses and espresso bars. Typically, it is hoped that the winner of the recent in-house barista contest at the Abode hotel group, Scott Ingram from the Abode in Glasgow, will be entered for the national event this year.
There are always notably few entries from the big coffee chains - in the States, baristas from Starbucks will enter the national championships, but it is difficult to recall that happening here.
Entrants from SSP/Ritazza have done well in recent years, and the first of the chains to place an entry for the 2009 UK contest is Esquires, who have promised to enter Katie Sutton, winner of the franchise chain's in-house contest last month. It is suggested that Costa Coffee will also enter the winner of their own in-house contest, due this month.
There are several training sessions being planned for those who want to enter the UK barista championships. There is an ‘official' barista jam to be held by Pumphreys Coffee of Newcastle on 26th November, open to anyone who has an interest in entering the competition this year.
Danielle Hadley, a noted competitor in recent years, will be leading another special training course for potential first-time entrants to the barista championships at Cooper's in Huddersfield on the same day.
In the south, the trainer at Origin Coffee of Cornwall is looking for a full team of South-West baristas to compete in the national contest. "There will be some excellent baristas competing this year, so competition will be fierce," says Origin's Tom Sobey. "Luckily the competition allows the top 24 into the finals in Londonâ¦ so we expect to bring the whole SW team!"
There is a new machine sponsor for the UK championship this year - after three years of backing by - La Spaziale, the SanRemo machine brand will take over. This is imported by Andrew Tucker of Devon, who also runs the Coffee West - distributorship, supplying coffee and equipment to caterers throughout the West Country. Arla will once again be the milk sponsor with its Cravendale brand.
The likely dates for the regional heats are: January 14/15, Northern Ireland; Jan 21, Edinburgh; Jan 28, Cardiff; February 4/5, Exeter; Feb 11, Derby; Feb 18, Newcastle, and Feb 25, Lewes. The finals will probably beheld in March.
By Ian Boughton