Dave Jameson, UK Coffee in Good Spirits Champion, represented valiantly at the WCIGS in Melbourne this year but it wasn’t meant to be. Watch Dave’s performance here. Here’s his parting shot. Or is it? Read on….
All fires start with a spark and burn themselves out eventually.
My competition journey is now over, and I’m sadly not going to be representing the UK in the final of the World Coffee in Good Spirits Championship.

It’s been an amazing experience. I have learnt so much, met so many outstanding people and felt the love and support of friends, family and colleagues.
On the day I wasn’t satisfied with the flavour of my drinks that I served. I got a couple of proportions mixed up, and I ran over time. All of this cost me marks. What I saw though, is what the world judges are looking for and I don’t think my stripped down, back to basics style was it.

I want to thank Nic, my wife, for her patience, love and support. Matt, and all the guys at Union for being so positive, so encouraging and so helpful. Artis glassware and Kokoa collection for their help with ingredients and glasses. The SCAE UK for supporting me and organising the competition, and Madeleine from Norway who helped me out with cream for the championship.

World-Coffee-in-Good-Spirits-2014-300

I haven’t decided if I will try again next year.
I feel like I have unfinished business here that I need to sort out.

Pre-Melbourne planning, nerves and a coffee crisis!

When the dust settled on the London Coffee Festival and I realised I was going to have to compete again in Melbourne, I had to start planning, and I had to do it pretty quickly. There was only going to be five weeks between the competitions.

The World Championship takes a slightly different format to the UK competition. The first round is fairly specific – you need to produce a hot coffee cocktail of your own making, using Grand Marnier, then a Cold Coffee cocktail, again  with Grand Marnier. If you score highly enough to reach the World Championship Final, you get to do your Irish Coffee and one of your other cocktails. I had planned my UK routine with the orange liqueur, thinking it was needed, but it turned out it wasn’t essential. I figured that the worst case scenario would be that if I got through I would have well-developed cocktails in place already. The upshot was that I was going to need a new hot cocktail.

Before working on that , though, I was going to need to pick which coffee to use again.

Selecting the perfect coffee

The 2014 crop of coffees from Los Lajones had arrived in the cupping lab on the Tuesday before the UK Championship. It was too late to use any of them in the UK, but I was interested in looking at them for the Worlds.

Coffea arabica grows as several different varietals – again, if you keep following our grape analogy, think the difference between a Sancerre and a Shiraz in terms of the characteristics each varietal will produce. The Los Lajones I had used in the UK was a mixed varietal crop with Caturra, Yellow Catuai and Pacamara, but I was really interested in trying a Geisha from the same farm, grown at 2100m! That’s Austrian Ski resort altitude! Geisha is a near-mythical crop in coffee terms. Originally Ethiopian in origin, it was rediscovered in Panama in the early 2000’s and became a sensation, regularly setting new record prices at auction. Geisha trees grow very tall and to achieve the extraordinary flavour profile (high sweetness, superior cleanliness, notes of berries, mandarin oranges, mango, papaya and distinct bergamot-like finish) the geisha trees need to be grown in extremely high altitudes. Another unique feature of this particular crop is that it is naturally processed – dried out in the sun with the fruit still on the bean. This may be the only Natural Geisha in the world!

I tried a cup of this rare and remarkable coffee with Steven Macatonia and Oli Brown and was hit by firework after firework of flavour going off in succession with my flavour notes.

BOOM! Strawberry BOOM! Orange BOOM! Dried Fruit BOOM! Brandy Butter BOOM! Cocoa. It was like the coffee had been grown especially for my routine!

I took the decision, quite easily, to use the Geisha. As such a rare and exquisite coffee, it is quite an investment from the company to dedicate around 10% of our total stock of this coffee for the competition.

Coffee recipe development

From here, I moved back into recipe development. I was happy with the Irish Coffee and the Custard Martini from the UK Championship, but I thought I might try to enhance the martini by making my own advocaat. Word of advice: don’t. Advocaat is made by whisking together egg yolks, sugar, vanilla and brandy over a Bain Marie. It’s messy, hard, time-consuming and the end result looks like scrambled egg. It tastes pretty good, but the abc is roughly double that of commercial Advocaat. After a couple of fairly catastrophic experiments I gave up and resigned myself to the fact that the Advocaat is not the fine, hand-crafted bespoke ingredient which gives this recipe true sparkle – that’s the coffee. Instead, the Advocaat is a great building block – a base to build from which gives you silky luxurious texture and a dense, custardy mouthfeel, with a fairly generic, unobtrusive vanilla flavour which does not interfere with the other components.

I just needed another hot cocktail. I went back to the Basil Grande – strawberries, basil, Chambord, Grand Marnier and cranberry juice. I switched the cranberry juice for a deliberately under-extracted aeropress, to drive the acidity and try to replicate the character of cranberry, but try as I might, it just tasted horrible! Astringent, unbalanced and with an aftertaste like drinking too much cheap fizzy pop before going on a rollercoaster. Not what I was looking for, and definitely not doing justice to such remarkable coffee!

I asked Gordon Howell, the 2013 UK Champion, and 3rd in the World last year for some advice. He suggested going down the route of brandy, port, mulled wine, and warming wintry spiced drinks, so I ordered some samples of brandy and experimented with how they would work. Again – some showed some promise, but mostly they were disappointing.

One evening, about 2 weeks before I flew I was hit with inspiration! In a previous job, we had blended blackcurrant and raspberry juice with almond syrup to replicate the flavour of cherry. I had Chambord, which is a liqueur based on raspberries and blackcurrants, and if I. Could get some amaretto, this might work!

But how to present this, and what coffee method to use? I did a lot of research into hot cocktail recipes  and there really are not that many! I tried to think about what the best hot cocktail I have had is, and it’s Irish Coffee. There is a good reason these classics stick around and it’s because all that testing work is complete and quality and popularity are proven! I thought I would do an experiment with making Irish coffee the same way as I do for the final, but substitute my Dalmore for the Amaretto and Chambord mix.

I made one up, took a taste, and gave it to my wife. She refused to let me have it back! Sweet, with the flavour of bursting, ripe juicy cherries, and dark chocolate, somehow I had made a Black Forest Gateau in liquid form and it was delicious! She enjoyed it so much, I had to make her another one. Absolutely no cherry or chocolate in the recipe, yet the flavour of both. This was a very serious breakthrough!

I booked a couple of days in our training room to do some routine run-throughs, and got practising on my new routine. Things were ok, nine minutes on the first practice and down to seven and a half after the second, I did half a dozen trial runs and was really satisfied with how it was all working out.

My second day I did a practise run for the final IF I got through to it.

Disaster.

The Irish coffee was really harsh, brutal, unpalatable, disharmonious and woody. Not at all how it had been in the UK championship and not at all how it should be. With the help of Oli Brown I pushed through about 4 hours of recipe testing, trialling different grinds, different ratios of water to coffee and different amounts of whisky. Nothing we did made much difference to the flavour. This was a real problem. It was the Friday before I flew on the Sunday and there was no time to change anything.

The way I would have proceeded, if I had more time, would be to carefully examine the flavours in the Coffee and match them to a specific Whisky which I would then use instead of the Dalmore, but unfortunately there simply wasn’t time, and the only thing I could do was use the three varietal blend from the UK competition, which was roasted for me at very very short notice!

A little dramatic, and a little last minute, but the right decision. I have two routines that I am proud of, with drinks that I think are delicious and I am confident that I can deliver a credible performance and leave with my head held high, having done the best I can.  I am up against some super- serious competition again. Matt Perger is a former Australian Barista Champion, an innovator in grinder technique and came second in the World Barista Championship last year! There are also two of last year’s finalists – Martin Hudak from Slovakia and George Koustoumpadis from Greece. It’s going to be a very high performing competition!

I’m looking forward to competing, and I will keep you posted on how I get on!

You can follow Dave on Twitter at @DavidJamesonUK, and if the technology gods smile on us you’ll be able to view his performance on the livestream here on Friday 15th at 06:26 UK time

Dave Jameson decided on the spur of the moment to enter the 2014 Coffee in Good Spirits Competition. After some express recipe development [link to second post] and much anguish over timings, the day of the event finally dawned.

The Friday of the competition arrived, and I was on stage at 1.40pm, with half an hour to practice backstage and 5 minutes to prepare onstage. I was pretty nervous, but took a walk around the London Coffee Festival, where the event was hosted, which was full of friendly faces.

I spent some time in the competition area watching the brewers cup to acclimatise myself to the stage, and I hung out at the Union stand where I confidently told my manager that I was happy that my routine would run to time, I was happy that my drinks were good, and that I was happy that I wasn’t going to win. I’d realised that the standard of competition was so high that there was no way I could win, one guy spent three weeks developing an ice cube! My recipe was too simple, too generic and too easy to win and I would be lucky to make the top three. However I was happy that I had learned lots about coffee and recipe development and put myself out there. I was going to enjoy myself and not worry about the result.

Finding myself onstage, with my glasses, aeropresses, whisky and shakers in front of me was fantastic. I have watched a lot of UKBC performances over the past few years and always wondered how on earth you can pour such great latte art when your hands are shaking so much! Being onstage, understanding the time pressure, and knowing that the judge was trying to see my portafilter baskets, inspect my tamping etc brought it all into new perspective for me. Until you have been in that situation, I don’t think you can properly understand how difficult it is for competitors to say, do and deliver what they want to. It has enhanced the respect I already had for them, and I think it enhances my credibility as a judge to be able to say that I have competed.

As soon as my time started I had my first problem. I had chosen to grind my coffee on stage for the Aeropresses, and my grinder wouldn’t start. I was banging away at it for 20 seconds, but it wouldn’t start grinding. I stepped away – told the judges more about the Los Lajones, and went back to it, where finally, it started! Massive relief, but I was now 30 seconds or more behind where I wanted to be. I got my head down and got on with it, only to find when I got to my other grinder to prepare the espresso that it wasn’t working either. There is a trapdoor at the bottom of the coffee bean hopper, and I had forgotten to open it! No beans were coming through. I made my excuses to the technical judge -it’s reasonable to waste coffee by clearing out the grinder blade chamber of any old coffee, so that the stuff you use for pulling the shots in competition are as fresh as they can be. I did this twice to make sure my coffee was a proper full dose. This probably cost me another 20 seconds or so.

With 30 seconds to go, my music changes from cheesy 80’s hair metal (Panama by Van Halen – do you see the link?) to some really fast uptempo 90’s rock (Caffeine Bomb by the Wildhearts) – this is my cue to wrap it up and finish – I knew I had to do this pretty quickly as this song has a swear word at 9:30 into the routine, and that is an instant disqualification!

I finish, and run to the timekeeper – 8:26 seconds – a 13 point deduction.

I was really happy with the way it went, and I was pleased that my drinks were as good as they could be, the routine went well, I dealt with the problems I had and still finished in time. The deductions would probably keep me out of the top three, but I could live with that.

Lining up on stage for the results was tougher than competing – looking the audience in the eye – people you know watching you and nothing else to focus on. There is real kinship with the other competitors by now – we’ve all been through the same battle and come out on the far side.

The top three are announced in reverse order:

Third – Rob Dunne – DunneFrankowski. Wow! This guy was one of my favourites, and he does stuff with coffee and spirits all the time.

Second – Dan Fellows – Origin. Wow again! Dan was the Champion two years ago – came second last year and is a regular top ten UKBC competitor – in all honesty, I was SURE he was going to win.

At this point my heart starts beating out of my chest, because either I have won, or I’ve not made the top three. I’m sure the rest of the competitors feel the same way too……

First – David Jameson – Union Hand-Roasted Coffee.

Unbelievable. I never imagined I would win this, and it was such a buzz to get my little trophy! I still haven’t stopped grinning.

So how did it all come together? I’ve been giving this some serious thought. I was definitely lucky to have such great coffee – I would not have been able to use such brilliant coffee if I didn’t work at Union.

 

The support and gentle guidance from my team of mentors too was invaluable. Having skilled, knowledgeable people around me to help coach and guide me was such a huge benefit, and the depth of knowledge and understanding of coffee at Union is like nowhere else I have ever worked.

Having judged competitions was really useful – I recommend it to anyone – the simple fact of knowing the tricks to get round my grinder problem for example, I would not have known without having judged. It also helped that I was familiar with the stage too!

My very very understanding boss, Matt Kennedy was also brilliant, giving me loads of time to prepare, practice and perfect the routine. It’s been an amazing project and very rewarding.

Next stop: Melbourne for the World Championship.

And he’ll be reporting back for us from there too –  Congrats Dave, it’s an amazing achievement and we’re all incredibly proud of you!

 

 Inspired by producer Graciano Cruz’s innovative methods and passion for coffee, Dave Jameson entered the 2014 Coffee in Good Spirits competition with only weeks to spare, and found that coffee and booze is more of a challenge than it sounds

Taking the taste test

I booked some time at Union Hand-Roasted Coffee’s roastery to do some recipe development of my Basil Grande and Orange Custard Martini concepts, and brewed up. Both drinks were really good! The Basil Grande possibly rather superior in terms of refinement, craft and skill of production, but the Orange Custard Martini tasted sumptuous and sticky with a glorious texture and the flavour of distilled Terry’s Chocolate Orange. Ultimately though it came down to fitting it into an eight minute routine. I knew I had to do aeropress to deliver my Irish Coffee, and I can’t think of any way I could brew four Aeropresses in eight minutes, so I picked the Orange Custard Martini.

Good mates and good spirits

We had a meeting a couple of weeks before the competition where we had the chance to meet some of the other competitors and chat to Gordon Howell, who was the 2013 Champion. This was a really fun night, not just because of the free booze, but because it was an opportunity to connect with the other competitors, who are some of the people I respect most in the coffee industry. I left feeling fairly confident that my preparation was going well, but a little overawed by my competitors.

The support I received preparing for this in work was outstanding, from the account managers – Matt Ho, Matt Kennedy, Tom Handiside, to the trainers – Arianna Pozzan, Freddie Gilbert and Dumo Mathema to the managing directors, Jeremy and Steven and the Quality Control Manager – Oli Brown – everyone mucked in to help me out and give me suggestions about how it could be improved and offer me guidance on flavour notes and how it would play with the judges.

I set up my equipment and went for a run-through. My time was sixteen minutes with a week to go before the competition. Disaster.

Clock-watching

This was a major issue – for every two seconds over time you finish, you are docked a point, and after a minute over time you are disqualified. I had already seen one of the competitors I would face in this competition disqualified in the UKBC for running a minute and three seconds over, to double the competition time would be catastrophic. I was faced with the very real possibility of competing and embarrassing myself.

I took the weekend to think about what to do, and came back focussed and ready – I booked two days to practice and do nothing but practise. My next run through was ten minutes, and the one after that was seven and a half. I kept on practising again and again, growing in confidence until I was satisfied that I would be able to get on stage, perform and not humiliate myself.

Here are my final recipes that I decided to use for the competition.

 

RECIPES

Orange Custard Martini:

60ml Warninks Advocaat

25ml Grand Marnier

Double ristretto (Los Lajones, Panama Microlot) (23grams finely ground coffee, delivering 45ml in 28 seconds)

1 teaspoon chocolate flakes (Madagascar 70% – Kokoa Collection)

Add all ingredients to a shaker glass, fill with ice, cap off and shake until the steel shows condensation. Double Strain into a martini glass, garnish with an Orange zest twist and chocolate flakes.

Tastes like Terry’s Chocolate Orange – made of silk.

 

Irish Coffee

8g natural caster sugar

160ml brewed coffee:

Aeropress, invert method. Poisition plunger halfway between 3 and 4.

19g coffee reasonably finely ground

50g water, stir for 15 seconds until all the grinds are wet

Top up to 180g leave for 30 seconds, cap off with filter, invert, plunge.

20ml Dalmore 15 year old

Top with spiked cream

200ml double cream, 10ml dalmore, 5g sugar

Add to small kilner bottle

 

Shake until thickened but still mobile

Pour over the back of a bar spoon onto the coffee to produce a pure, white clearly defined layer on top of the coffee.

 

Tastes like mince pies and brandy butter in front of a hot fire, wearing a jumper with a reindeer on it, whilst watching Morecambe and Wise.

Next time, read all about the big day and see how Dave got on…

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