We were both excited and grateful to be chosen to participate as an experience judge for the first ever Extracted Development coffee competition, which launched this weekend at the Birmingham Coffee Festival. The brainchild of the talented Cup North team, this new competition focusses on real-life barista skills, how baristas and roasters can and should collaborate to best serve their customers as well as involving the audience in a meaningful way. 

Eight roasters from around the country were paired with eight baristas, and were tasked with preparing a presentation for the three experience judges, Claire Wallace of Assembly Coffee, Dénes Bíró of Heylo Coffee and myself, as well as a fourth wildcard judge who was pulled from the audience on the day. Their movements and preparations were watched over by the careful eyes of the technical judge, Sapphire Chan of Ancoats Coffee. For a brief 18 minutes on stage each duo was asked to serve the four judges an espresso, a plant-based milk drink and a filter coffee, using coffee that had to be sourced for under £12 per kilo of green.  

The main ways competitors were able to gain points on the scoresheet and climb the leadership ladder reflect the reality of serving customers in a café setting, through being personable and warm, giving good customer service and displaying knowledge of their product and accurately describing the taste experiences of their three rounds of drinks. 

It was refreshing to meet such a positive bunch of people over the course of the day, and after each duo called time Dénes, Claire and I would pore over the scoresheets to ensure we were taking care to allocate points to the hardworking baristas and roasters, and confidently reflect their accuracy and attention to detail. 

Together, we tasted coffees from Costa Rica, Peru, Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, Rwanda and Ethiopia, everything from traditionally washed through pulped naturals, semi-washed and honeys, into the experimental anoxic/anerobic processes and even a whisky barrel aged coffee. Varieties included Arara, Gesha, Sidra, Caturra, Bourbon, Pink Bourbon and countless others. The level of detail conveyed on how coffees were sourced, roasted and ultimately prepared was fascinating, and we were often left beaming at the passion and enthusiasm that we share as an industry for playing a small role in coffee’s complicated supply chain.

Event co-creator, Grace Talbot, and event MC Ricardo

Underpinning everything, from the organisers Grace Talbot and Hannah Davies through the competitors and our fellow judges was a very strong sense of inclusivity and community. Now we’re looking forward to doing it all again at the Manchester Coffee Festival later this year, which you’ll find us exhibiting at on November 18th an 19th. 

Congratulations to the winning duo, Laura Metcalfe and Culainn Boland-Shanahan, and thanks for your routine with which was brimming with knowledge, passion and, of course, tasty drinks.

Eventual winners, Laura Metcalfe and Culainn Boland-Shanahan