Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Week beginning October 10th - #smackdown16 - The Finals

I was nervous, so I assume the competitors were nervous too, but who knows? Some openly showed it, some admitted it, some just cruised in, had a few pints of lager and said 'let's do this'. This year we were in the wonderful upstairs room at Square Mile with loads of space, easy access to the beer, lots of room for the DJ and the competitors and a Go-Pro camera set up over the table with projection onto a big screen so we could all see.

We started late, but we anticipated we would, as the last barista arrived at 7:45 but that just built up the tension and anticipation in the room. Our judges huddled around to discuss the finer points of latte art and the intricate rules of competition and when you look at the judging line up, it was hard not to be impressed or perhaps intimidated.

Glenn Watson - Lead Judge
James Bailey - Head of Quality at Workshop Coffee
James Hoffmann - Director of Square Mile, author of World Coffee Atlas, World Barista Champion 2007
Andrew Tolley - Director of Taylor Street Baristas, World Barista Judge, World Sensory Judge, 2nd Place World Tea Brewing Championships 2016
Gareth Jones - Head of Training - Square Mile Coffee
Ali Scott - Head of Wholesale - Square Mile Coffee
Dhan Tamang - UK Latte Art Champion 2014, 2015, 2016, currently ranked 4th in world
Dan Fellows - UK Barista Champion 2016, Head of Wholesale at Origin Coffee
Jeffrey Young - Director of Allegra Strategies and London Coffee Festival

MC legend Ross 'Browns of Brockley' Brown picked up the roving mic and we had very special guest DJ Billy Tahtis on the decks with old school and new school hip hop tunes getting everyone in the mood.

The top 16 competitors were:

Daniel from Kaffeine
Jakub from Prufrock
Julius from Second Shot
Wendy from Second Shot
Alex from Origin
Zain from Saint Espresso
Zoe from Prufrock
Nick from Coffee Lab
Jack from Origin
Tom from Store Street Espresso
Csaba from Chief Coffee
Paul from Origin
Sam from Kaffeine
Radu from Coopers Coffee
Joseph from Climpsons
Will from Origin

We stayed with the original format of two cups per barista, pouring at the table then choosing their best one, with left over Estate Dairy milk poured into a glass as part of the assessment process. The music was amazing, Ross built up the crowd and heckled the baristas and about 60 people crowded around to watch

Into the second round were:
Will from Origin
Radu from Coopers Coffee
Jack from Origin
Daniel from Kaffeine
Wendy from Second Shot
Alex from Origin
Paul from Origin
Zoe from Prufrock

Into round two we made it harder and it was one cup, one shot, one pour with barista against barista and we ended up with a final four, or a final three plus one, as three of the boys from Origin Coffee made it to the final four, against Wendy from Second Shot Coffee.

For the final four, we made it harder again, with the baristas steaming their milk at the same time on the machine, as our lead barista Paulina poured two cups of espresso. They then made their way to the table and poured at the same time in front of a cheering crowd.

This time, it was Will and Alex who made it through to the final, both Origin boys, whilst Paul and Wendy battled it out for third place.

The cash was laid out on the table with £150 for third, £350 for second and a massive £500 for for place and in a very tight contest, Paul came in third, leaving Will and Alex to battle for first place.

They poured, they put down their cups, the judges discussed and conversed and then at the very height of tension, this happened.

I did not see it happen, but word on the street is that a very high class, very much world class latte art champion knocked over one of the cups, the Go Pro camera and there was massive spillage before the judges even had the chance to decide. The choice was given between the competitors to go for the photo replay or to pour again and Will took the decision to pour again.

So here we were, another re-pour in the final of the Latte Art Smackdown reminiscent of last years re-pour between Nico Halliday and Dhan Tamang.

Finally, the judges decided and it was Alex who came through. A special note here..In one of the heats at 7:30 pm, as we were about to start, there was one spot available and Alex turned up and went in at the last minute, won through to the finals and then won the whole competition.

We ended with a 1, 2, 3 for Origin Coffee and in the final drama for the evening, when handing over trophy for third place just like a dropped baton in the 200 metre relay, the trophy slipped through hands and smashed onto the concrete floor.

Please can we say a very big thank you to all involved, to the competitors, to the judges, to the sponsors, to Square mile for hosting the final, to the MC and the DJ and to the Kaffeine staff who worked each event. Brilliant. Already looking forward to next year.

Once again, we have some great photos up online for your to see all the action so please check out these ones here and do share them across all your social media channels with #smackdown16.

The Final

Round Four

Round Three

Round Two

Round One

Peter Dore-Smith


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