Top-level coffee brewing

As a former world champion barista, Fritz Storm can no longer participate in the World Barista Championships himself. Those are the rules of the WBC; old champions have to make room for new talents! However, you’ll always be able to find Fritz at the annual Barista-competition. He’s there as a judge or – like this year in Dublin – just there to meet with all the new faces of the people who really know coffee.

In recent years, more than 50 nations have been represented by each their national champion, and 2016 was no exception. 61 of the world’s leading baristas went head to head in Dublin in June at the World Barista Championships.
“To baristas, nothing beats the annual world championships. This is where you’ll go up against other champions, and where you can really measure you own skill. You’re judged by the most experienced taste buds too. It’s a tough game. You’re given 15 minutes of prep-time, and then 15 minutes to serve 12 drinks: four espressos, four espresso/milk drinks (i.e. cappuccino), and four free-style drinks, also known as ‘signature drinks’. The signature drinks are where you can get really creative.” Fritz Storm says.
Four judges will taste the coffee and score it, while one judge focuses on the technical aspects of the performance. Fritz Storm has been head-judge for five years now, and he has been in charge of the worldwide certification program, which all judges have to go through. This year he enjoyed the championships from the sidelines without any official duties.

All the big countries are represented
It has become an established event. There are always contestants who just missed the trophy at the previous year’s event; anyone apart from the world champions are able to participate year after year. Each year, new baristas are ready to join the game and challenge “the oldies” too. This year there were no big surprises among the six baristas in the finals. All the big countries were there, along with baristas who had tried their hand at competing before. And it is obviously an advantage to have experience here.
In the early years of the World Barista Championships, baristas from Scandinavian won the trophy; then baristas from English-speaking countries had the lead for a while. They seem to be better at expressing themselves, and to present their drinks to the judges. It then became the coffee producing countries’ turn to win the championships; they sorted out their training and took full advantage of the clear edge they already had by growing the coffee in their backyard.
“It is now baristas from Asian countries who have the top spots in the overall ranking. They are willing to purchase the very best coffee, and their attitude towards their training is very serious,” Fritz Storm says. For the past 13 years, Storm has helped some of the best Japanese champions, e.g. the 2014 world champion, Hidenori Izaki.
This year, Berg Wu from Taiwan won the championship and is hereby the world’s best barista, closely followed by runner-up Japanese Yoshikazu Iwase.

You have to get your coffee facts straight
Another trend is a far greater focus on the actual knowledge of coffee. It is one thing to know how to brew coffee and bring out the very best taste in the products you are using. This, of course, is very important and an integral part of the competition. However, more and more people are getting involved with the production of the coffee in the coffee plantations.
“You have all these ideas on how to optimise the beans and the taste by adjusting certain growing methods,” Fritz Storm shares. “You know a lot about soil conditions, air humidity, maturing etc., and this has now grown to become an important part of the competition every year. As part of their presentation, the baristas are sharing their knowledge of the products they use.”
Fritz Storm himself travels around and visits present and future suppliers to his company, Coffee by Storm. Coffee by Storm sells coffee to companies across Denmark. “I’ve done this for many years, way back when there wasn’t much more than two and a half cafés in Copenhagen who could make a decent espresso, I’ve been doing this. Back then, I’m sure some people thought I was quite geeky in my approach but today a lot of people do this. They visit coffee plantations, learn about the production and are very interested in the entire process; from crop to cup as some of the Americans put it,” the coffee-expert from Coffee by Storm states.

Picture 1: The judges follow semi-finalist Dawn Chan from Hong Kong.
Picture 2:Fritz Storm with this year’s number 4, Lemuel Butler from America.

Artiklen publiceret i “Food & Drink”, September 2016.