A man who runs a coffee cart in London has become the UK barista champion for this year and will represent the country in the world's speciality-coffee championship in the USA next month.
Gwilym Davies, who operates in various locations around the Whitechapel and Old Street areas of London, won the title in the grand final of the championships at the ScotHot exhibition.
The fascinating importance of the win is that it shows how deeply ‘speciality coffee' of an extremely high standard is now cropping up in catering businesses of all kinds.
At Gwilym's coffee cart, the coffee is supplied by Square Mile Roasters, the company headed by the 2007 world barista champion James Hoffmann. At one point recently, Gwilym was serving coffee from exactly the same blend as used in the 2008 world finals by that year's champion, Irishman Stephen Morrissey.
Now he will travel to Atlanta, Georgia, to take part in the 2010 world championship, which will be held on 16-19 April.
The barista championships are the annual demonstration of the skills required to make espresso-based coffee. The entrants have to serve qualified judges with an absolutely perfect ‘straight shot' of espresso, brewed to bring out all the subtleties and nuances of the coffee, and then a perfect cappuccino, which involves the art of steaming and frothing milk to a very precise texture, consistency, mouthfeel, and at exactly the right temperature.
As well as winning the national title, Gwilym's performance in the final won him the prizes for the best espresso and best signature drink of the day.
Second place in the national contest, and also the day's prize for best cappuccino, was taken by Maxine Beardsmoore, a very highly-regarded barista from the Bottle Kiln café of West Hallam, Derbyshire. She has been a finalist in the national contest before, and the Bottle Kiln itself has won a string of café awards.
Third place was taken by Tristan Stephenson, a private entry who was at one time a bar manager at Jamie Oliver's Fifteen restaurant in Cornwall . Curiously, four entrants in this year's contest had prior experience at Fifteen, and a current bar manager at Fifteen in London, Marcin Drzewiecki, made it into the top six.
The world barista championship finals will be held in London next year. Steve Penk, director at La Spaziale espresso machines of Chesterfield, who will take over as the next world chairman of the championships, has confirmed that the event will come to the UK for the first time, probably in June 2010.
"This is very significant for the UK trade," he said. "It will be the biggest coffee event Europe has ever seen, and the importance of it will be to spread the awareness of speciality coffee right through the British beverage trades."
By Ian Boughton