United Kingdom’s Dale Harris wins 2017 World Barista Championship

Dale Harris of Has Bean Coffee in the United Kingdom has won the 2017 World Barista Championship (WBC). The first-time national champion beat 58 country representatives to claim the prestigious title on 12 November at Café Show in Seoul. Miki Suzuki of Japan was runner up, Kapo Chiu of Hong Kong was third place, Ben Put of Canada was fourth place, Hugh Kelly of Australia was fifth place, and Kyle Ramage of the United States was sixth place. Competitors presented 15-minute routines and served four espressos, four milk-based, and four signature beverages to a panel of four certified judges. Harris embraced the new WBC table configuration format and completely changed the interaction experience. He hosted the judges between two tables and provided service from both sides, even asking the judges to not watch him prepare the coffees. His routine focused on the connection between the flavours experienced in the cup, and the actions that shape them at origin. “For most coffee experiences, that connection is broken,” Harris told the judges. “We get information about varietals, altitudes and farm names, but without context it’s just noise, and repeated often enough, we risk commoditising the experience of specialty.” Harris developed a sensory experience for his routine. He worked with the Department of Food Sciences at the University of Nottingham using Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry (GCMS) to identify aromatic compounds found in different extractions, roasts and recipes of his coffee. Harris started with his milk course, dialling 20 grams of his coffee in, and 40 grams out, with a 21 per cent extraction yield. He heated his milk to 50°C and produced a texture with 10 per cent foam. He identified three aromatic compounds tied to his milk-based beverage, which he linked to granola, brown sugar sweetness and poached pair flavours. As Harris prepared this espresso course, he introduced the judges to a “sensory placer” – four objects designed to introduce them to the aromatic compounds in his espresso. He asked the judges to smell the aromas of the items in front of them. First, cubes that contained the first compound connected to the aroma of dried fruits and a taste note of pomegranate in espresso. Then came spheres, containing compounds linked to sweet and floral aromas, and a taste note of Ethiopian honey. They then lifted a pyramid containing the aroma of two compounds that gave flavour of caramelised orange, and a glass vile to observe the fluidity of the liquid, in reference to how his espresso would move in the cup. Harris revealed his coffee and its origins towards the end of his presentation – a fully washed 2L28 from Finca Las Brumas in El Salvador. “[Farm information] is the most important of all, but when we give it away without context, it doesn’t have that value,” Harris told the judges. “It’s our job to build that connection between information and the sensory experience. Working with the university and using things like GCMS has enabled me to develop my understanding of this connection further, and using examples like the sensory placer is another way to connect to the consumer, and that’s really exciting.” His cold signature drink contained flavours of dark chocolate and oolong bitterness. A second sip gave flavours of cream soda. The WBC returned to Asia for the first time since 2007. The competition began as a small competition primarily amongst Denmark, Norway, and has expanded into a global network of more than 60 sanctioned national bodies putting on yearly championships and regional qualifying events. Photo credit: Leo Lui

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