4 days. 72 routines. 6 finalists. One world champion. It was Sprudge.com’s pleasure and privilege to document every last performance, every single competitor live from Vienna at the World Barista Championship. We said so many times on Twitter, but we’ll again compliment the staff of the SCAE and the organizers at World Coffee Events, for putting on a frictionless, beautifully staged event. We were honored to be given the opportunity of creating introductory videos for each of the 6 World Barista Finalists, which you can now enjoy for yourself studded throughout this article. We’ve also provided links to the complete competition videos, featuring expert commentary from the able-minded triumvirate of Nick Cho, James Hoffmann, and Stephen Leighton.
Our coverage of the World Barista Championship was made directly possible by the sponsorship of Nuova Simonelli, with logistics provided on-site by their capable and gracious team. We thank you gentlemen very much.
The WBC is about much more than the semi-finalist and finalists, and only Sprudge has full recaps for all 54 competitors, including US champ Katie Carguilo and Canadian champ Josh Hockin. Be sure to check out our complete coverage from Day 1 and Day 2 of WBC 2012. [youtube]nheCL-LnPus[/youtube]
1. Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood, Colonna and Small’s, United Kingdom
Mr. Colonna-Dashwood was at-large competitor #49, semi-finalist #3, and WBC finalist #1. He placed 6th overall. Mr. Colonna-Dashwood is the “Colonna” in Colonnna and Smalls Specialty Coffee, a multi-roaster cafe in the city of Bath, in the southwest of England. Maxwell began each of his three routines with the same admission: “I am absolutely obsessed with coffee.”
Mr. Colonna-Dashwood competed using Bolivia Finca Valentin, a lot of caturra & typica varieties grown at 1600 meters, dry fermented and fully washed. His Bolivia Finca Valentin was roasted by Origin Coffee Roasters, based in the city of Cornwall, UK. His routine employed two different roast dates: for cappuccinos, an espresso served 15 days off roast, paired with organic Jersey herd unhomogenzied milk from SW England; and for espressos, a roast dating back a full 3 weeks, yielding notes of pineapple, tomato, cherry, salty caramel, and a cocoa bitterness. His signature drink paired this espresso with two distinct sidecars, one a fresh squeezed grapefruit juice with sparkling water, the other an extract of star anise and licroice root, both meant to contrast the espresso and force the judges’ palate to consider his coffee from different angles.
Mr. Colonna-Dashwood is a newcomer on the international competitive stage, and his deep push into WBC Finals in Vienna was impressive to say the least, putting his shop in Bath on the international radar and making him a competitor to watch in subsequent competition cycles.
2. Miki Suzuki, Maruyama Coffee, Japan @maruyamacoffee [youtube]kpgH5n0ggPE[/youtube]
Miki Suzuki was at-large competitor #30, semi-finalist #11, and WBC finalist #2. She placed 4th overall. Ms. Suzuki works in Japan for Kentaro Maruyama’s Maryuama Coffee, with locations in Nagao, on the island of Shikoku, and Yamanashi, on the island of Honshu.
To those who infantilize Miki Suzuki as a competitor, who focus on her physical appearance and speaking voice as opposed to her tenacity and the complexity of her routine, we dare say you’re missing the point. Ms. Suzuki is a serious competitor indeed, flawlessly performing her complex routine three times before the international panel of judges. She served two different lots of natural processed coffee from Nicaragua, using words like “beautiful” and “elegant” to describe her coffees, yielding flavors of berry and peach. Ms. Suzuki’s flatware and table settings were similarly elegant, including individual “patios” of coffee offered to each judge, complete with a small rake.
3. Raul Rodas, Paradigma Coffee Roasters, Guatemala @raultigre [youtube]Lv_jqs8UNe8[/youtube]
Raul Rodas was at-large competitor #13, semi-finalist #1, and finalist #5. He is your 2012 World Barista Champion, finishing first out of the final 6. Our full feature on Raul Rodas is available here. Felicidades, El Tigre!
Colin Harmon was at-large competitor #46, semi-finalist #8, and WBC finalist #4. He placed 3rd overall. Mr. Harmon is the proprietor of 3FE (Third Floor Espresso), a specialty coffee company with two locations in Dublin, Ireland. There’s quite a few highlights to review from Mr. Harmon’s routine, but first, we feel we’ve capture the singular image from WBC 2012 in the photograph below:
Mr. Harmon’s signature drink presented an exaggerated version of his espresso; a “caricature”. And to exemplify this to the judges, he literally illustrated the concept for them, employing Dublin-based illustrator and barista Bruno Ferrer to create a cartoon version of himself. “Our number one strategy should be building trust through taste”, Mr. Harmon told the judges, as he talked them through expected flavor note for his Nicaraguan pulp natural pacamara, from Erwin Mierisch’s Finca Limoncillo. It’s remarkable that Colin consistently had his drinks down at the 12:30 mark, allowing him a full two and a half minutes to talk the judges – and the audience. “Be nice to people. Earn their trust.”
It’s a precious thing, the way someone decides to spend their 15 minutes on stage, those moments when the judges – and the watching world – are yours and yours alone. What stands out about Mr. Harmon, then, is his very intentional decision to use that time talking about trust, and kindness, and learning, and outreach; this is someone who spends every day on the front lines of specialty coffee education, and his decision to use his time in the spotlight to draw a line in the sand – “Our number one strategy should be building trust through taste” is exactly this, make no mistake – well, it’s laudable, and when paired with cartoon props, and “Islands In The Stream“, and a kind of effortless class and grace that seems indigenous to competitors from north of the English Channel, the result is 45 total minutes of competition time spent with Mr. Harmon over 3 days that felt both entertaining and special.
5. Fabrizio Sención Ramírez, Cafe Sublime, Mexico
Mr. Ramirez was at-large competitor #24, semi-finalist #7, and WBC finalist #5. His 2012 WBC routine earned him a 2nd place ranking overall. [youtube]_2_nVZin8MU[/youtube]
Some competitors offer a concrete theme, others use their 15 minutes on stage as a conduit for self-expression and personal communication, but the best – like Mr. Ramirez – somehow manage to do both. Fabrizio’s routine was centered on the margogype variety, in this a case a pulp natural processed coffee grown by Chiapas producer Enrique Lopez. His was a thoroughly modern 15 minutes, including a remarkably difficult espresso course that featured individual parameters, tasting notes, and flatware for each of the four judges. His signature drink paired the Lopez margogype with coffee leaf & chafe infusions, offering flavors of oolong tea, fresh tobacco, tamarind, and melon.
To our minds, watching Fabrizio work felt reminiscent of WBC champ Gwilym Davies in 2009: the newsboy cap, the sly smile, the casually bottomless reservoir of warmth and charm. It’s only natural to play the “who’s going to make it?” guessing game at these events, as the competition field is whittled down first from 54, then to 12, then to 6, and Mr. Ramirez was consistently on our list as round followed round. Not because we’re predictive geniuses, or because we’ve got the first clue what we’re talking about – trust us, journalists at barista competitions haven’t the slightest bloody clue what they’re talking about – but rather, out of a sincere hope to see Mr. Ramirez compete again and again, so as to be afforded more time with him on stage. He’s an immensely enjoyable competitor to watch.
6. Stefanos Domatiotis, Taf, Greece @sefanosook @tafcoffee [youtube]MNQXLPWCId4[/youtube]
Mr. Domatiotis was at-large competitor #41, semi-finalist #9, and WBC finalist #6. He placed 5th overall. This was Mr. Domatiotis’ 6th year of international competition.
During our coverage of the United States Barista Championship regional cycle, we frequently remarked that the best competitors serve as ambassadors for their individual shops and roasteries. This truism is not dependent on placement or competition success (though that certainly doesn’t hurt); it’s a testament to individual performers, and the capacity this competition format has to be a powerful advocate for the small businesses that power its competitors. Readers of this website should be aware: There exists in Athens, Greece a passionate company dedicated to the pursuit of specialty coffee, and that is Cafe Taf. iTheir product and their professionalism, though isolated within Hellenic coffee culture, is second to none in the wider specialty coffee world. They buy top quality green, their roasting parameters are dialed in, and their work ethic is second to none. You should know their name.
And Mr. Domatiotis? He’s a dynamo, a bustling human ball of energy, just so very obviously talented on stage and adored for it by the crowd, capable of switching off his natural personality – boyish bon vivant, seeker of a good time – and becoming something quite else: a focused, determined champion. Mr. Domatiotis competed using Finca Plan de la Batea, an El Salvadoran coffee processed by Aida Battle. His signature drink included two distinct infusions of cascara, herbs from the island of Santorini, and orange zest grown near the historic Gregican city of Sparta. His routine climaxed to the ever-increasing BPM’s of “Zorba The Greek”, and the resulting moments – the rhythmic clapping of the crowd as Stefanos thanked his trainer, Tracy Allen, and his processing expert, Aida Battle – represent a synthesis of national pride, international influence, and raw talent that gets to the heart of what these competitions can mean in the right hands.
So that’s it! Through every United States regional event, to the USBC in Portland, and on to the WBC in Vienna, we’ve covered every single competitor, every single routine. It’s all archived here on the site, and will be for all eternity – simply search by your favorite competitor’s name, or type in the name of the event you’d like to look back on in the search bar. We’ll be back with more exhaustive coverage when the competition season starts up again. Thank you for following us through the competition cycle in 2012, for permitting us to jam your Twitter feed, and for allowing us to document your routines around the world. Most of all, we thank you personally for the many kind words and compliments you’ve extended to us, both online and in-person. Competitive coffee deserves dedicated, responsible, engaged journalism, and it was our pleasure to serve in this capacity for you throughout the 2012 season.