The competition season has started in the beverage world and, with the big coffee promotional year just round the corner, several high street names have held their own in-house barista contests in a bid to join the big coffee spotlight of 2010.
Krispy Kreme competition in which baristas from the doughnut chain's 43 stores have fought for the honour of being the company representative in the UK Barista Championships.
The importance of this, notes its supplier Drury Tea and Coffee, is that Krispy Kreme has clearly seen the corporate value of coffee sales.
"Whereas coffee used to be 3 or 4% of their business, it now accounts for something like 15%, and hasn't done so at the expense of doughnut sales," remakred Drury's managing director Marco Olmi.
"Krispy Kreme has recently had its first 'barista conference', in which all stores were expected to come up with realistic ideas to realistically take business from the big coffee chains. It's exciting to see a company being so positive about the prospects for its coffee sales."
Krispy Kreme has decided to put both its champion and runner-up in for the national barista championships. The winner was Becky Jane Marlborough of Krispy Kreme's branch in Reading, and the second-placed was Michelle Gregory from Portsmouth. The winner also gets a trip to the Rancilio espresso machine factory in Milan, and both receive a Rancilio espresso machine.
Costa Coffee has named a barista from Dorking as the winner of its global in-house championship in which baristas come from China, India and the Middle East to compete in the company's roastery in south London. The winner is Gabor Kamondi, with Jonathan Scott from Costa's Carlisle branch in second place.
Although Costa is asked every year if it will enter the UK championships, it has again remained silent on whether it will enter its champion.
However, a Costa franchisee may enter, having distinguished himself in another contest. This was the intriguing championship held by Caffe Society of Yorkshire, distributor of Brasilia espresso machines. This contest was notable because the organisers specifically invited baristas who had never competed before and it is a significant commentary on the current high standards of high street coffee that the finalists all finished within a few points of each other.
The winner was Howard Barwick of J & S Ventures, the Costa franchise in Leeds who left a teaching career because he found the world of coffee more fascinating. He wins a trip to Brasilia's factory in Milan.
Paul Meikle-Janney of Coffee Community, entries co-ordinator of the UK Barista Championship, has advised that entries for the 2010 contest can now be made at www.scaeuk.com . The importance of this year's barista championship is that the winner will go through to the world finals, which will for the first time be held in London, next June. It is widely anticipated that this spotlight on coffee will give the hospitality trade a great opportunity to promote its beverage sales.
Meanwhile, coffee-houses and cafes have also been in competition. The Bev-e awards, run by the Beverage Service Association, have for the first time been won by a tea-room - this is the Waterloo Gardens Tea-House in Cardiff, a very new business.
South Wales has distinguished itself as well with the winner of the Café Chain section, which was won by Coffee # 1, a small chain of coffee houses based in Cardiff, South Wales, and Bristol.
The mobile trading section of the awards was won by Café 2 U, a national franchise based in Yorkshire.
By Ian Boughton