The Reg Barber
trophies shone in all their jovial, green Irish splendour on the World Barista Championship
stage. The nervous energy was palpable as Finals Day began. The week had proved eventful, which is par for the course of course, but this year the growth of the competition took a colossal and somewhat clumsy leap forward. To be sure it was a leap and it was definitely in the right direction, but it was not without its pitfalls.
Live scoring was introduced. A seemingly innocuous act, but my my, did it ruffle some feathers and break some hearts! Instead of all the baristas remaining in solidarity until the Semi Final 12 names were called, one by one they were knocked out the running or left fearing for their slippery position at the top of the table. The judges and officials also had their hands full with immediate queries and questions instead of waiting until their allotted judges's deliberation slot to go over their scores. Sam Low of New Zealand's name mysteriously disappeared from the scoreboard and he was given the opportunity to compete again at the end of Day 1. Commentary on the live feed was very entertaining and we can certainly deduce that the live scoring has helped to turn this into much more of a spectator sport!
The lack of a 2nd technical judge (and their point quota) meant that the scores appeared severely lower than in past years, knocking baristas sideways at first before they realised this fact.
SA's Wayne Oberholzer landed 29th when all the chips had fallen into place. He was disappointed to say the least, but the standard is so extremely high and anyone can see that the points margins are extremely slim. Well done Wayne! We know you'll be back, all guns blazing!
The Team Event
was also a new addition and is a fantastic idea and a great way to promote camaraderie and give baristas another shot at experiencing the Barista All Stars event (all expenses paid!). 61 competitors came out to give it their all last week and it is really cool to see another 6 baristas being recognised and leaving with an incredible prize. Congratulations to Team Tamper collaboratively scored the most points in the first round, so will be going to Seoul this November, well done France, Indonesia, Portugal, Sweden, UAE and United Kingdom.
Through all the additions and changes, 6 baristas rose gracefully and majestically to the top. And the most admirable quality between them? Their humility.
When Lem Butler of the USA, who eventually placed 4th, said at the end of his set (excuse the paraphrasing), "You could have been anywhere in the world today, but you chose to be here and I thank you for that", I got goosebumps, simply because of the heartfelt sincerity with which he spoke every word. And that quality shone through in all the wonderful Top 6. Lex Wenneker of The Netherlands, Charlotte Malaval of France, Lem Butler of USA, Ben Put of Canada, Yoshikazu Iwase of Japan and the winner Berg Wu of Taiwan. Every single one of them is a fantastic ambassador for coffee and service.
Berg Wu presented a relatively uncomplicated set, centred around his Finca Deborah Panama Geisha. The geisha varietal is well known for its jasmine and floral characteristics and word on the street is that in the cup, Berg absolutely nailed this flavour profile with the judges being blown away by the intense floral explosion in the espresso. Time and time again, and as much as we debate what goes into making a World Barista Champion, how the coffee tastes on stage, especially according to how the barista describes it, will win you the most points on the score sheet.
The intangible likeability factor, well that dear coffee lovers, Berg has in excess. The man does not stop smiling and you cannot help but smile along with him. This seasoned competitor (three time Taiwanese Barista Champ!!!) just looks like he is having the most fun on stage.
Well done to World Coffee Events
for an exciting WBC. We have to wait a long time until the next one which we be held in Seoul in November 2017.