Your new Irish Barista Champion….

I’m writing this from my hotel room in Sao Paulo with large jet planes flying by meters from my window. I flew in a few hours ago, and feel quite lucky to have slept most of the direct flight from Frankfurt. You may be wondering how I’m writing yet another post that doesn’t fit what I promised to deliver in the poll a few posts back, but please know that I am writing that one up and will post it soon.

The reason for this post is to congratulate Colin Harmon on becoming the new Irish Barista Champion the day before yesterday. Colin works for Karl Purdy of Coffee Angel, himself a past Irish Champion who placed 15th in Bern. I was fortunate to be the head judge for the finals; a first for me but a task I now treat with a lot more respect – bloody difficult. Colin did a great job especially when he realised his incredible strength and yanked the left pf in so tight that he couldn’t get the right one in on the two group machine. He went to call a technical time out but a second later said he’d just go on, and ended up finishing well under despite having to use just one portafilter for his entire routine. Seems obstacles are to be a theme for Irish Baristas in this competition.

You can read more about Colin’s build up to the competition and I’m sure his preparations for Atlanta here.

I will post either about something from the poll or Brazil soonish.

Alright, Alright

So I haven’t forgotten your demands, but I’m gonna just write this quick in between post.

I’m in LA at the moment helping Intelligentsia prepare for the Western Regional Barista Competition. With 5 of the 6 finalists in the USBC last year hailing from this region, the competition is due to be tight.

In addition, the good people who’ve been working towards this for months have got some really cool events planned and a little bit of innovation in the layout of the whole thing. The event will be uploaded live on ustream, and theres already a blog where you’ll find lots updates in the lead up and throughout the competition.

Theres talk of me emceeing, along with my good pal Kyle Glanville and I’m told they’re working on finding translators for my thick brogue for the poor LA locals.

 

A new post.

I’ve been struggling to write anything for this in a while. The reason for this is not anything to do with my recent change of employment, but rather its got more to do with just not being quite sure what anyone’d be interested in hearing about. 

As you can no doubt quite easily believe, this is quite a quiet blog, both in output and readers. And while I’m aware this year I’m having is fairly unique and may be of some interest to someone, every post I start to write feels a little too familiar or samey.

I’m writing this on my first ever flight with Alaska Airlines, from Chicago to Seattle. Between this paragraph and the last I spent 25 minutes wondering what to write and trying to read what the person two rows ahead is typing on her laptop. I suspect, from her attire, its a fantasy novel, probably her first. I hoe it works out for her.

So heres what we’ll do. Seeing as I’m an indecisive, nosy individual, I’ll let you decide what you’re possibly interested in hearing about. I promise I will write a decent post on whatever you choose, and should numbers be very low, it will confirm my long held belief that no one really reads this or is bothered to hear what I’ve been doing anyway.

Which would you rather hear about?
1) Meeting Roberto Diaz, the farmer of El Bosque in Guatemala
2) Lets Talk Coffee in Armenia
3) A week with Geoff Watts in Cali.
4) The farms, consejos, cafes, baristas, personalities and varietal garden of El Salvador, some of them at least.
5) 10 days in Taiwan
6) My New GS3
7) The Canadian Barista Competition
8) Where I now work.

View Results
Make your own poll

edit: I must apologise, the only new employer I have is myself. I had heard rumours lately of where my new place or work might be, and seeing as they were all news to me, I thought it’d be funny to throw it in as an option. So baring that in mind, the next highest post is my week in Cali with Geoff.

I’m currently in Tacoma Seattle, helping judge the NWRBC. I may even post about it, but I’ll leave it a few days to see if any other option other than ‘my new job’ gets requests.

Seemed like a funny idea at the time, sorry to cause confusion. Its like the ‘news to me’ thing all over again.

Bittersweet Developments

This week, I decided to step away from my role in Square Mile Coffee Roasters. It wasn’t a light decision and resulted only after long discussion with James who has already announced it here.

I have been involved in Square Mile from the beginning and stepping away now just as the business is really establishing itself in London and contributing heavily to the burgeoning coffee community does seem a little odd. I have learned much from James and Anette and still feel incredibly excited about what Square Mile will achieve over the next few months and in the future. It has been a great honour to work with both of them and consider them close friends.

However in the last few months, I have been traveling extensively and learning at a rate thats been both daunting and inspiring. As wonderful as this has been, it has resulted in a very diminished role in the company preventing me from contributing as much as I’d like.

Being the last champion, James was very keen to allow me to get the most out of this year and avail of every opportunity and very kindly gave me that freedom. Knowing I might never have a year like it again, I have been able to visit  four origin countries in the last three months alone and discover all over again just how little I know about coffee, certainly on the agronomy side at least. 

I have come to realise that I want to maintain this rate of learning, continue to travel and still make time to see my family and of course Jenny who is really far too patient and understanding to deserve a big lump like me. To have that and still play an effective role in Square Mile Coffee is just not possible, and it is for that reason I decided it was necessary to leave.

Questions?

baristas are getting older

But I think its a good thing. 

It feels like these days I’m in the middle of my year; traveling a lot and learning at a rate I never thought possible. I’m writing this from California’s sunny Hermosa beach after just coming from chilly Montreal to judge at the Canadian Barista Competition. While I ponder on my turning another year older yesterday, and where coffee has brought me to date, I can’t help but compare myself to my peers and observe how many baristas are now moving into new roles in the industry, often out from behind the bar.

Without wanting to criticise the other excellent judges in Canada, I couldn’t help but feel the judges who’d started behind the bar were that bit more attentive and aware of the flaws and attributes each performance brought. The question was raised if it should be baristas judging baristas in competition, or as an alternative, should every judge  be required to a quick run through regardless of their background. That may not be a popular idea and there is also the possible problem of bias in such a small industry.

I certainly don’t think the only good judges are baristas, and have judged with, and been judged by some truly stellar non baristas. But it has gotten me thinking about young baristas who are now looking to move forward in their coffee career. I know many who’ve gone on to do training, roasting, consultancy or even open up their own cafes, and when I was lucky enough to attend the SCAA’s Joint Board Committee Meetings last month, I was amazed at how many baristas formed the bulk of the volunteers. 

There is nothing really new in this, or controversial, but for me I think I’m a little excited about it all. We’re seeing more and more baristas move into prominent positions in the industry, positions where they can have a direct influence on how it develops. We’re going to see the job description of baristas change, and we will see people respecting it and paying for it; though how long God knows. 

I believe judges and associations should always hold a healthy mix of baristas, and the plenty of other necessary and important roles in coffee, but I guess I’ve been given a greater sense of perspective recently, which has really highlighted just how important the barista is. Again this may seem like something you’re all very much aware of, but there was a question raised at the SCAA event, asking why so much focus was being put on the baristas as opposed to say producers or roasters. Richard Rhinehart’s answer was something I knew but somehow hadn’t taken in.

In response, he more or less questioned how many times roasters or farmers had the opportunity to engage the end consumer and educate them; maybe 6 a year? maybe 20? maybe even 200? Compare that with how many hundreds of thousands of times a minute ‘baristas’, good or bad, are in a position to educate and garner respect for the drink and the work that went into it.

Its never been presented that clearly to me before. I’ve been so enamored by the agricultural side of coffee recently that I suppose I’d lost sight of the potential and sheer amount of work that needs to be done at the brewing point globally. 

I’m sorry if this sounds like a stating the obvious post, but its kind of whats on my mind right now, which I guess is the point of blogging nonsense. Or are you guys just reading for the giggles? I bet you are.

Any thoughts?

Post from my Dad

I’m back in Ireland for a few days, and had to listen to my parents talk about their most recent trip abroad. Normally its a dreary experience, that i politely sit through, but I thought it’d be fun if Dad shared this one with you.

“On a recent trip to Chicago , my wife Geraldine and I were strolling down West Randolph in the Loop when what should we see but an impressive coffee bar with the familiar Intelligentsia logo above the door. It was familiar because our son Stephen had already installed Intelligentsia mugs and coffee in our kitchen back home in Ireland some years previously, and very nice coffee it was too.”

The place was busy but we reached the counter quickly. Geraldine ordered a cappuccino and a pastry and I asked for a ‘flat white’ only to be met with a blank look. I explained that it was a common coffee drink that I’d tasted in London and that, as far as I could tell, it was made from a double espresso topped up with warm milk in a smallish cup.

We picked up our order further down the bar. Geraldine’s cappuccino, dispensed by a serious looking big guy, looked great with perfect latte art. He handed me a very small glass containing  espresso with a perfect small heart poured on top. Not what I expected but I said nothing and we turned our attention to finding a seat; not easy. All tables, indoor and outdoor, were occupied, some with customers who, judging by the laptops, books and stationery looked like they were there for the day, perhaps for the week.

Not sure what to do, Geraldine approached the counter and asked if it would be OK to share a table with those already installed.  The barista behind the bar smiled and said, ‘sure, get acquainted’. So we sat ourselves down.

Geraldine thought her cappuccino was one of the best she had ever tasted, a comment Stephen doesn’t seem to appreciate. My coffee was fine but so small I had to resist the temptation to drink it all in one go and sip it instead to make it last. A gentleman at an adjoining table turned aside from his Mac and asked me the name of the coffee I was drinking. I explained that I had ordered a ‘flat white’ but had got what in Spain would be called a ‘cortado’. He digested this information without comment. I’m still not sure what a flat white is, or what exactly I got served.

When we were leaving, my wife Geraldine mentioned to the barista that our son, Stephen Morrissey said the coffee here would be excellent and that indeed it was. This didn’t seem to register with the barista, despite our son’s boasting about his far flung fame. We were gutted.

He seemed more interested in my comments about ‘flat whites’ and their origins in Australia. This was a drink, he said, that he’d already received several requests for so he guessed that he would have to do ‘further research’.

All in all, it was nice to experience one of the places that had made such an impression on Stephen in his coffee travels.

Brendan Morrissey

 

 

 

Hello? hullo? hello? ……. hullo?

Hello. So rather than structure a post thats pretty and wordy, heres an update of what I’ve gotten up to since flying thudly into Nicaragua 6 days ago.

I’ve stayed in a fancy hotel.

I’ve eaten rice and beans for breakfast.

I’ve swam in such a way that I got a mosquito bit on the sole of my foot.

I’ve been constantly frustrated that what little spanish I have is both horribly limited and severely useless due to the heavy barcelona accent I seem to have.

I’ve gone to the lavatory more than a man should in so few days.

I met and worked with Ellie Matuzzakka, who is both wonderful and horrible, but horrible in the way I find so damn charming. Right?

I met Mark Inman who I hate for abandoning his country, but love for his public speaking skills. 

I met Ric Reinhart, who actually I’d met before in Vancouver, and then insisted on asking him how he knew I’d been to Vancouver as I’d never mentioned it to him.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with my co trainers Raul, Luis Cappuccino and Rodrigo.

I’ve been to a farm, and feel the same way I did when I attended the WBC in seattle. I know way too little about this stuff.

I’m a little embarrassed at how surprised I am at how developed Nicaragua is in comparison to what I was expecting. I’m not sure if it means I’m racist or anything, but while I have seen some considerable poverty, the hotel I stayed in was quite fancy. It feels like a mixed bag kind of country, and I’ll leave it feeling slightly uncomfortable about how well off I am. 

I’m very excited about the next stage of my trip, which is Guatemala. I’ll be giving a workshop or two, and hoepfully, I’ll be visiting El Bosque, whose coffee formed 50% of the blend Anette designed for us.

I just shot a gun into a pool, and am hairier as a result.

I’ve made friends with a man from the Domican Republic, who has some funny ideas about aged coffees. It’ll never last.

I’ve eaten cherries, and can’t get over how sweet they are.

I’ve travelled around Managua on the back of a truck with Mark Inman and am hairier because of it.

I’ve seen cocoa trees, banana trees, orange trees and a spider that could kill me in 6 hours but was already being eaten by a fly that was harmless to me. Ha.

I’ve been bitten by three mosquitos, but no sign of malaria yet. Not that I’ve a clue what the symptoms of Malaria are?

thats all for now

Month 1.5

Unlike Klaus, I only have a ten months where I can be obnoxious and elitist, but what I thought might be nice, is that for each one, I’d write a post about my activities as the current WBC. It’s now two months and a day since the finals in Copenhagen, and this as you may have guessed by now, will be the first post. I wouldn’t hold great hopes if I were you.

I’d heard of the lull that follows the win,both from Klaus and James but its been interesting to experience. I think people imagine its a roller coaster straight away, but in reality, although you’re on a constant high for a while, in many ways it back to work. That said, I’m in the lucky situation where work is very exciting right now. Our wholesale is up and going, our webshop came online just over a week ago, and we’re on track to open our own cafe before the end of the year.

My first ‘WBC’ trip was just last week, to Glasgow. It may not sound the most glamorous, but the chance to catch up with old friends and be taken out to dinner in some lovely non touristy areas was really quite a charming start to the year. Most of you can guess what I might be doing in that city, but I’ll let those who hired me choose when they’d like to announce it.

Next week sees a bunch of WBC people in town for one of their big fancy meetings. Personally I’m looking forward to finding out who’ll be the next machine sponsor, and whether or not the rumours of London being the host for the WBC after Atlanta is true or not. On the 30th, I fly back to Ireland with the lovely Cindy Chang for a day, for a whirlwind tourist trip of Dublin and its better coffee haunts.  The next day, will be a big first for me; I fly to Managua for this years Ramacafe event in Nicaragua. 

I first heard of this event two years ago, when Deaton got a chance to go while I was working in Vancouver. This was the first time he met Klaus and Ken from bmag, and I believe his first origin trip too. So my personal goals are clear then, meet a nice danish person, an interesting west coaster, and get to my first farm. Obviously, its going to be great to meet some of the baristas I met at Copenhagen who I believe will be there, and in addition, on the 7th I think, I fly to Guatemala for a couple of days too. I’m really hoping to get to visit El Bosque, whose coffee made up 50% of my competition blend.

I promise, promise, promise I’ll keep some sort of log of how I get on on the trip, though I’m sure many of you will be sick of people gushing about their first origin trips. Expect words likes humbling, charming, spectacular, hot, bites, rash and lots of photos of me beside plants.

Hrmmm, what else. I was lucky to get quite a lot of press attention in Ireland, something that was wonderful and bewildering at the same time. I suppose getting up at 4 am to do morning TV was just as bewildering an experience as standing onstage with that trophy. James had told me in advance that you’ll naturally be nervous beforehand, but once you’re in the room, you quickly realise that your mind can’t comprehend just how many people are watching and so it quickly turns to just you and three people in a room. This was certainly true, but I suspect the fact it was shot in a shed in a garden helped somewhat in keeping me grounded.

Just the other day I was visiting one of our wholesale clients, and a good friend Gwilym in Columbia Road Flower Market only to see Keara Knightly behind me in the que, ordering some cappuccinos. I know I didn’t make the coffees, but I love that she’s drank our stuff. I just know she appreciated that brown sugar sweetness that came through. For the record, she didn’t add any sugar either. Pro.

So I’m sorry I haven’t been more vocal about my goings on, but I will really try to keep you up to date.  I’m getting my site built, slowly (my fault) and am in the process of confirming lots of upcoming trips, with locations such as Canada, Brazil, Colombia and Malahide. I will update the post in the next few hours with some pics.

There you go Deets.

WBC

First off can I apologise for the extra 1000 people who’ve checked my blog in the last few days hoping to see some interesting content. I have never been a prolific blogger and I don’t want any of you thinking this whole WBC thing will change that!

I think it would never have sunk in if it wasn’t for the rapid number of people adding me on friends on facebook. This is particularly worrying as they say the more facebook friends you have the less real ones you have. I suspect the reality will be the more facebook friends you have, the less cool you simply are.

That said, I do want to thank the large number of people who contributed to my unexpected success. 

Jenny, you have been by my side for the last 7 years, patiently letting me drag you around to cafe after cafe when we should be seeing the sights each time we travel. You are my best friend and the reason I smile at irregular intervals on buses, tubes and walking down the street. You helped me so much more than just polishing, but in saying that, I’m still kinda pissed you missed that water glass in the semis. I love you, and have lived a happier life because of you. Still, that water glass was filthy….

James & Anette, your guidance and skill have been crucial in my learning over the last few years. Thank you for showing me how to make great coffee and roasting great coffee for me to use. I was so honoured to be part of Team UK last year, and your help this year has been invaluable, in particular the whole driving all my gear and coffee from London to Copenhagen.  

Thank you for putting up with my goofiness, constant questions and poor oratory skills, you truly are good friends. I am so excited about what the three of us can achieve over the next few years at Square Mile Coffee.

Tim Styles, I would never have been successful in the Irish Competition, and gone on to Copenhagen if it hadn’t been for you. You’re relentless help and feedback was just so valuable, especially in the context of your kitchen and bar work. We’ll always have Muslin, but then you did break my xbox.

Kyle Glanville, in the short time I’ve known you, and even shorter that I’ve worked with you, I have realised just how great the job of a barista can be once we understand it as something beyond just pulling shots. You’re younger than me, and I hate you for it, because you represent so much of what a barista needs to become. You will be a great World Barista Champion.

Deaton Pigot. You are one of my closest friends and I love you……… I love to think of how we dreamed of working with the World’s best coffees and now we are. You are one of the hardest workers I know for your age, and your approach to coffee encompasses the kind of willingness to learn that we could all learn from. The onus is on you to surprise me in London now. 

John Ermacoff & Chris Baca. The Anfim Super Caimano played a huge role in my performance, and I’m not sure if I would have employed the same technique in Copenhagen had I not seen it tried and proven elsewhere first. Baca, your performance at the WBC was great, and I will insist you make that sig drink for me some day. So I just wanted to say thank you for both having the innovation that I then sorta stole. I look forward to meeting you soon John, Baca,… I’m good for a while. 

Brad Ford, Alistair Durie, Aaron de Lazzer, Robert Goble & Les Kuan; You are the people that cemented my love for coffee when I came out to Vancouver. You showed me what was possible, what was wrong, and the method to fixing it. You showed me great nights, a lot of laughs and very tasty coffee. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to sum up just how much I learned that summer, but know that I’ll never forget it and will always call you friends. Oh and Les, I still owe you some money.

Avonmore; I wasn’t overly vocal about this as I’m not sure its proper for a performance, but Avonmore, an Irish Dairy used by Dublin’s best cafes, were a huge help with preparing for the WBC. They sent milk over weekly for me to practice with in London and even practiced sending milk to Copenhagen. I was delighted to use the milk on stage too, both for its quality and though I’m not overly patriotic, because it was Irish. I’ve always enjoyed there milk growing up, and really do need to post about the farm trip I did with James that they hosted. 

Bea Vo: I would have made a fool of myself up there, or at least made more of a fool of myself, had you not been so very kind and helpful. I owe so much of my success to your ideas and generosity and will feel forever indebted to you. Thank you so much for the late nights and awkward hours where you gave me your precious time, and for making awesome red velvets.

Karl Purdy: your feedback and advice has been invaluable over the last few years. I have really enjoyed working with you recently and look forward to maintaining that relationship in the future. I hope I can adopt a fraction of your savvy approach to coffee in my own career, and look forward to our lunch in Mint whenever we manage to find the time.

Cindy Chang and Michelle Campbell; you are both such endearing people, who made life so comfortable for all the competitors and made sure we were always being looked after. Thank you so much for your tireless work that made Copenhagen such an enjoyable setting to share our craft. 

Mam & Dad; thank you so much for helping me out on so many occasions and making sure I always had everything I needed like pets, car insurance and laptops. You made me who I am today. If it wasn’t for the two of you, I would never have been successful in the competition, and probably wouldn’t have achieved much else in life either.

Chris & Ail, thank you for having such great taste in music and letting me appear to be the one who discovered them all. You truly are siblings, and have wonderful friends who have hair. Thank you for being around in my youth and for never calling me overweight. You never made me feel silly about being into coffee, even though being into coffee is ridiculous. Thank you both so very much.

Graham: Thank you for everything. Without you I would have never gotten through the last year. Your level of support and alluring scent have meant more to me than you’ll ever know. You are in the foo fighters.

Baristas I’ve met; I want to say I’ve been inspired by you all, but really I just stole all your techniques and put them together. That said, I think so many of you are just lovely and if theres only one thing I’d love to get out of this year, beyond a gs3 and compak in my apartment, is the chance to meet new people and connect with old ones. To clarify, by old ones I mean old friends, not the elderly. I’m happy to stay well clear of the elderly for a while. (Deaton I mean you)

The weirdest thing about the competition for me was the sense that I hadn’t changed once they called out my name. I didn’t suddenly feel I pulled incredible shots every time, or more importantly that I was the Worlds Best Barista. I wanted to tell everyone just how easily one of the other 51 competitors could be holding this trophy and how many great ambassadors for our craft were in the room. I 

I understand the responsibility of my new role, and will do my best to do well by you all. I really enjoyed Copenhagen, the show, the people and even being on stage- though more so in the finals. The experience of the few days really deserves a post of its own, I’ll try give details on how the performance took shape, and on the challenges and slip ups experienced in Copenhagen.

I thought it may be fun to share some of my goals for the next year; now that my ego has swelled to such mammoth proportions, I feel nothings impossible.

So this year, I want to;

 

  • get to origin for the first time
  • tame a tiger
  • invent a sauce
  • learn to surf
  • visit Melbourne
  • treat Jenny to dinner a lot more often
  • build a new home for this blog
  • touch my toes standing up
  • get over my hate of sweetcorn
  • get an i phone
  • open a coffee bar 
I’ve no doubt forgotten countless people who were influential, but when I realise, I will edit the post. I may be moving this blog soon, and probably to this site.  
Thanks again for all the kind words, when it sinks in and I start to behave like a World Champion.
finalists