First Published - May 10, 2010 (By Steven – Co-Founder)
Here at Union we’re very excited to be one of the sponsors of the 2012 UK Barista Championships. Marc Pierre Dietrich from UK Coffee Events spoke to Alan Miller from Union recently about what’s in store this year.
MPD: UK Coffee Events would like to thank yourself and Union Hand Roasted for getting involved with UK Coffee Events this year.
Additionally we would like to thank you for introducing a brand new prize category for the UK Barista Championships – Best Newcomer (Working Barista) – and for offering a trip to origin for the best newcomer in the UKBC.
What gave you the idea?
AM: Thanks Marc. We are pleased to be associated with UK Coffee Events as Roasted Coffee Supplier, and have been part of the UKBC for several years now, hosting the SouthEast Heat in London last year.
We are hoping to bring a new dynamic to the UKBC with this Origin trip prize. In our day job we support, advise and train many in the coffee industry: baristas, restaurant and bar managers, cafe owners. With the current upward trend in new businesses to the industry, we believe it’s important to support new talent, encourage skills development, as well as bringing our expertise in our ‘Direct Trade’ sourcing model to a wider audience.
Coffee education is pivotal in a barista’s understanding of coffee, from how to recognise quality in coffee to best practice brewing. A true 360 degree knowledge of how to extract the best out of the coffee is really important to arm the barista with knowledge and confidence to showcase the contributions of both producer and roaster.
MPD: This is a very generous offer. With taste being so important, will the baristas be cupping at origin?
AM: Places on trips like this are highly sought after, and are once in a lifetime opportunity for most people. The best newcomer to the UKBC, who is a working barista – who has scored the highest points after the regional heats – could find themselves heading off to a producing country such as Rwanda, Brazil, Guatemala, Costa Rica or El Salvador.
This will not be a 5 star holiday in comfort, but will be 5 star in experience!
During the trip the barista may need to adjust to altitude or put up with extreme weather, and he or she should be prepared to help with a coffee harvest (if one is taking place when they visit), or maybe get their hands dirty sorting or grading coffee. They may participate in a cupping but more importantly he or she will get to meet with farmers who we source from whilst seeing at first hand a working coffee farm and experiencing its environment.
The trip will be led by either Steven Macatonia or Jeremy Torz – both of whom travel regularly to origin to build relationships with existing producers for Union as well as uncovering new coffee gems, as their Direct Trade sourcing model delivers.
MPD: What reaction do you envisage from the barista community?
AM: It is our intention, I hope, that we engage and excite a whole new generation of coffee enthusiasts who are inspired enough to choose coffee as a career as Jeremy and Steven were when they first discovered their love of coffee.
MPD: Why do you work for Union Hand Roasted coffee?
AM: The energy in the coffee industry in the UK currently is exciting. The opportunity to tell our story and meet very talented people, be they baristas, producers (farmers) or suppliers, is a great part of the job that I do. And with such fabulous coffees in our portfolio to enjoy, the challenge in foodservice is maintaining the quality through to serve across a diverse group of customers.
People shouldn’t have to settle for a dud cup of coffee in the UK these days. Being part of the team that aims to bring great tasting coffee to all who want it, direct from origin in an honest and transparent manner is satisfying and fun!
MPD: What trends are you noticing in the UK at the moment?
AM: Tea menus are a common sight. Many cafes are now thinking about offering multiple coffees on their menus. We are excited that operators are beginning to realise that coffee drinkers want choice as well, so there is the start of offering a menu coffees with diverse taste profiles, or perhaps brew methods, will in turn showcase a good barista’s knowledge in understanding the large variety of wonderful coffees now available.
MPD: If you were entering the UKBC what coffee would you use this year and why?
AM: (without hesitation) I would use the Genesis Microlot, West Valley http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQ8Iz1nwXdQ from Costa Rica.
The taste is wonderful, allowing the opportunity to create a superb signature drink marrying up with the flavours of red berries, toasted hazelnut and dried apricot.
This coffee is grown by Oscar Mendez who is almost theological about coffee. His approach is very inspirational, as he grows for quality not quantity and his focus and commitment to great coffee grown in harmony with the land on his farm is just brilliant.