For the past two years we’ve shared a roasting sponsorship deal for the UK AeroPress Championship with Square Mile Coffee Roasters, our close neighbours in London’s East End. As the union has fractured (for the better in our eyes as it means more exposure to great coffee from the simple plastic brewer), with Scotland and Wales now holding their own comps, last weekend we played host to the 2016 AeroPress Championship of England, opening the doors to the public for the first time at our new Vyner Street roastery in the process.
Each year that goes by the posters for regional and national AeroPress champs become more impressive, more iconic and, in many cases, more coveted. As a sideshow to the main event, the poster creation provides an opportunity for artists, illustrators and designers to get creative and showcase a range and depth of skill.
This year, we worked with London-based Dan Mather. An independent silkscreen printer and graphic designer, Dan created a striking series of prints. Set-off by their unapologetically bold colours, the three colour-ways were distributed to and displayed around cafes all over England in the run-up to the event, with the imagery also forming the base for the one-off bag labels.
This year, aiming to provide something more considered for the 27 competitors to brew and serve to our panel of discerning judges, we invited our friends from Square Mile to cup in our new QC lab in the roastery. Cupping our entire range of filter coffees together with their full selection, sat alongside the potential components was a 50/50 blend of each Workshop and Square Mile coffee in every permutation possible to help us identify which would complement each other and produce a delicious and balanced cup.
In the line up was our Buena Vista from Astrid Medina in Colombia. This coffee always stands out on a table due to its very distinctive berry acidity and refreshing characteristics. Amongst the coffees Square Mile had brought was Mahembe from Rwanda, a coffee we know well, having also had the opportunity to roast and serve it in previous harvests. Possessing a unique character, with incredibly honeyed and potent aromatics complimenting a very refined sweetness, the decision was unanimous that Mahembe, combined with Buena Vista, created something complex and enjoyable.
The first batch we blended went out to the lucky competitors who managed to secure a ticket, giving them just under two weeks to get familiar with the coffee before competition day. They weren’t, however, informed what was in the coffee, having to rely purely on their tasting abilities to produce a recipe that would yield tasty results.
Then on Saturday 30th April, when competitors arrived with brewing gear in tow, they picked up a more recently roasted bag with the revealed coffees on the back label.
With a smattering of EK43 grinders and Fetco hot water towers dotted around the modular bar in the Vyner Street Training Space, the competitors had an hour to prepare their beans and brewers before we kicked off at 3:00pm.
Oli Bradshaw on the decks played a great mix of 90’s hip hop and Motown which went down fantastically as the smell of London’s finest hotdogs drifted in from the Big Apple Hotdogs grill outside. Stuart Ritson headed-up the bar serving Kernel Brewery Table Beer on the house, while Ross Brown kept everyone tickled or scratching their heads as he commentated the event.
A whiteboard with Polaroid shots of all competitors tracked progress through the rounds, their fate decided in groups of three by the pointing fingers of our own Head of Production, Richard Shannon, Anette Moldvaer, Director at Square Mile Coffee Roasters and Isabelle Legeron, Master of Wine and the brains behind London’s RAW Wine Fair.
The first nine rounds saw the 27 using sieves, double grinding and removing chaff, chilling their brews with iced flannels and brewing with customised water from temperature controlled gooseneck kettles. Precision was the name of the game as our competitors kept a steely nerve under the watchful eye of some 200 attendees.
After the knock-outs and the semis had reduced the field of 27 to a final 3, we were left with Gregory Boyce of Lanark Coffee, Liam Field of Macintyre Coffee and Matt Randell of Climpson & Sons brewing for glory. Cameras stretched out in hands, the crowd craned their necks to watch the three finalists spend 8 minutes brewing to the best of their abilities. Carrying the bowls over with an air of reverence, the three judges unanimously decided on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place:
1st - Matt Randell
2nd - Liam Field
3rd - Gregory Boyce
Congratulations Matt on brewing the best cup of the day and winning a Baratza grinder, a 12 month subscription from both Square Mile and Workshop and, of course, a place at the World AeroPress Championship in Dublin this June. Thanks also to everyone who helped make the event - competitors, sponsors and spectators. Without you all, we wouldn’t have had such a blast.
Today, England. Tomorrow, the world.
With the English Champion now crowned, our attention turns to the World AeroPress Championships in Dublin. As sole roasting partner for the event, we’ve worked with Cafe Imports (the WAC green coffee partner) to select the coffee to be brewed by the 52 regional and national finalists on the day. In keeping with the English Champs, we’ll be keeping coffee information close to our chests until the day itself. We will, however, be sending out practice coffee to all WAC competitors following upcoming trial roasting and QC, so if you happen to be a 2016 AeroPress national champion, it’ll be landing on your doorstep in the coming weeks.