Welcome to Sprudge.com's coverage of the United Kingdom Barista Championship! We're absolutely delighted to bring to you these photos and routine recaps, courtesy of our brand new London correspondent Elyse Bouvier (with additional reporting courtesy of Kate Beard). Our 2013 UKBC coverage continues throughout the weekend, so look for a complete finals recap, a big feature on the new UKBC winner, plus interviews with UK Aeropress champ Isa Verschraegen and UK Brewers Cup champ Sang Ho Park.

The 2013 UKBC Finals begin today at 13:30 GMT, and are being livestreamed right here via the UKBC Ustream channel. Follow @UKBC on Twitter for updates and details throughout the competition. Complete schedule is available here.

And now, your 2013 UKBC Semi-Finalists!

1. Steve Dyson Spring Espresso, York

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A nice presentation to start the day! Mr. Dyson talked about what the “perfect coffee” is… and how it doesn’t exist. Then he made the judges his “perfect” cup with 80% Bolivian Caffe Tocessi and 20% Ethiopian Nikessi. Tocessi, Nekissi, perfection.

2. Catherine O’SheaArtisan Roast, Edinburgh

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Catherine loves lavender! She wore a floral apron and presented her signature drink in pretty little flower teacups. She even encouraged the judges to stroke the lavender she placed in front of them to release its aroma. Catherine’s signature drink incorporated a Chemex, some jasmine infused honey, and cascara tea. For Catherine’s first year competing, it was a very lovely presentation!

3. Maxwell Colonna-DashwoodColonna and Smalls, Bath

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Hailing from Bath and with a name straight out of a Jane Austen novel, Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood comes into this year's UKBC with high expectations, after winning the event in 2012 and making it all the way to WBC Finals in Vienna. Maxwell started the presentation talking about processing and presenting blackberries two ways, unprocessed and processed – the same as his coffee. Maxwell builds on this theme, advocating to the judges that “processes allow flavour to present themselves to us.”

Mr. Colonna-Dashwood will compete again in the 2013 UKBC Finals.

4. Jose Melim Easy Jose Coffee, London

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There aren’t many competitors who can use a small tree and some dry ice to such an effect, but Jose Melim did exactly that. His whole routine encouraged us to “come with [him] to Peru”, which meant the judges and audience were treated to bird sounds and soft music. His signature drink combined coffee leaves, cascara, and espresso.

5. Nicola Peacock – Perky Peacock, York
Nicola started off using a Brazilian coffee for her espresso, then added a Rwandan coffee for her sig drink. This was meant to bring out a bit of jammy sweetness… and so, is it any wonder she used small jam jars for her sig drink vessel? Ms. Peacock had the judges combine bottles of bitter, sour, and sweet concentrates with her espresso to bring out the flavours and balance. This was another really lovely presentation in Semi-Finals, as Nicola managed to stayed calm despite some small hiccups (this was her first-ever UKBC appearance).

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6. Alex SargeantStrangers Coffee, Norwich

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Alex used a fully washed Nicaraguan coffee with hints of maple syrup and granny smith apples. His signature drink used fenugreek seeds and a made-on-set apple foam, complete with green sprinkles on top of the finished beverage!

7. Will CorbyMercanta, London

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A clever presentation with a Tarantino soundtrack coursing beneath a tale of two farms divided – shades of “Romeo and Juliet”. Will used two coffees (Finca Superior and Finca Suiza) in his presentation, sourced from two farms on the same mountain in El Salvador, and processed using the same method. The point here was one of simple comparison; how much difference does a few meters make? This was one of my favourite tables at Semi-Finals: simple, yet colourful, and presented with a kind of clarity and grace.

8. John GordonSquare Mile, London

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John looked sharp in his denim apron, and sharpness prevailed throughout his routine. He wanted to provide an entire sensory experience for the judges – including sound –  to minimize distractions from tasting the coffee. This meant that throughout the presentation, John controlled the music for the judges to enhance their overall sensory experience. Super interesting, right? Here's some more photos:

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The whole thing was smart enough to move John into finals, and we'll have gobs more notes on his routine when he goes up later today.

9. Wes BondBean Loved, Skipton

Photo of Wes Bond currently unavailable. Instead, here we have his brother, James.
Photo of Wes Bond currently unavailable. Here we have his older brother, James.

Wes took the approach of “blind tasting”, allowing the judges to first experience the espresso without any knowledge of farm or tasting notes, then filling them in with in-depth infocards. His signature drink consists of two sundried components, cherries and cascara, combined together into what one imagines would be a a fairly tart signature drink.

10. Yann Chalmers3FE, Dublin

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Yann used an El Salvador San Rafael coffee, roasted by Has Bean. For his signature drink, he combined grape juice to espresso for heightened acidity, then made a Worther’s Originals foam to compliment the butterscotch flavours. Yum!

11. Xanne CareyAmid Giants and Idols, Lyme Regis

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Xanne’s espresso notes were called as being “lemon, peach sweetness, with black tea and bergamot.” Her cafe – Amid Giants and Idols – likely has the coolest name of any shop represented at the 2013 UKBC.

12. Estelle BrightCaravan, London

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Estelle’s presentation was a lot of fun, and not just for the judges – she took an effort to include the crowd too! For her sig drink, Estelle fashioned a “strawberry milkshake pebble” – which just sounds awesome – and topped it with espresso, before telling the judges to “Knock it back!”. Great style! I can't wait to watch her compete again, as she's advanced to the 2013 UKBC Finals.

13. Joe MeagherFlat Caps Coffee, Newcastle Upon Tyne

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Joe’s using a Bolivia Loayza coffee tasting of “cherries and limes,” with a slighty darker roast to “allow the sugars to caramelize.” His signature drink combines cold drip made from the same coffee and a cascara syrup from the same farm, plus tonic water and espresso. This bit of a push for flavor and ingredient integration seems to have served Joe well – he'll be up again later today in the 2013 UKBC Finals.

14. Don AltizoBaxterStorey. Omnipresent

Don competed at UKBC using a natural Yirgacheffe mixed with a washed Sidamo. His signature drink called for fresh blueberry juice and cooled espresso with frozen apple puree. Don is ALSO a UKBC Finalist – I'll have lots more notes on his routine, plus lovely photos to share later today.

15. Dan FellowsOrigin Coffee, Cornwall

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Dan has a three bean blend in his espresso: 33% Brazil pulped natural, 33% natural Brazil, and 33% Ethiopian Yirgacheffe. His routine stood out for its somewhat ambitious decision to replicate the Ethiopian coffee ceremony for the judges. This is, simply put, not something you see every day on the competition stage, but it was definitely a cool series of moments at UKBC semis.

16. Shaun YoungKaffeine, London

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If coffee was a lady, she’d be keeping me up all night.” Shaun actually said this during his presentation, which elicited a hug whoop from the crowd, as I'm sure you can imagine. He used a pulped natural Brazil, and his signature drink included a jar with fennel, cinnamon, and hints of apple to smell and a sweet and sour infusion to drink before the espresso.

17. Chee Wong Taylor St Baristas

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Chee Wong talks a lot about “umami”. I’m still unsure how I feel about this word in the coffee world, but apparently, according to Mr. Wong's routine, in Japanese it means “Yummy.” His signature drink included mushrooms infused with coffee overnight. Yummy? The judges evidently thought so, as Chee Wong has advanced to UKBC Finals.

18. Peter Grosvenor-AttridgeColonna and Smalls

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Peter thinks that the signature drink is all about having fun with flavours. He uses his natural Brazil coffee and combines it with a bowl of plums reduced in mineral water and a bowl of hazelnuts to be infused with the milk. Though perhaps a tad in the shadows when compared to the recent success of his fellow Colonna and Smalls competitor, Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood, I definitely felt that Peter seemed to hold his own on stage at UKBC.

19. Edita Chordacevic Federation Coffee, Brixton
Edita wanted to use the signature drink portion of her routine to show how coffee can give a different experience with additional ingredients. She combined blood orange syrup with tonic, shook it all up with ice and orange zest, and then added espresso. Here's wagering that her espresso did, indeed, taste different once these additional ingredients were added. A success!

 

20. Hugo HercodRelish, Cornwall
Hugo combined cacao, dark sugar, macadamia nut, and butter into a mix for the signature drink, then added espresso at the very end. His espresso has very ripe raspeberry acidity which allegedly combined well with the sig drink flavours.

And that's it! Stay tuned for more 2013 UKBC coverage right here on Sprudge.com.

Elyse Bouvier is a London-based photographer, writer, and working barista at Talkhouse Coffee