Dale Harris of Has Bean Coffee in the United Kingdom has won the 2017 World Barista Championship.
The first-time national champion beat 58 country representatives to claim the prestigious title.
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.
The 2017 WBC took place at Café Show Seoul on from 9 to 12 November. Competitors presented 15-minute routines and served four espressos, four milk-based, and four signature beverages to a panel of four certified judges.
Dale 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 not to watch him preparing 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,” Dale 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.”
Dale developed a sensory experience all about flavour, and presented his farm information at the very end of his routine.
He explained to the judges the flavour is experienced primarily through aromatic compounds, and presented 10 compounds specifically paired with his coffee.
To better understand the connection between flavour and compounds, Dale worked with the Department of Food Sciences at the University of Nottingham, using Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry (GCMS), an analytical method to identify different aromatic compounds, which Dale compared in different extractions, roasts and recipes.
Dale 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 associated to granola, brown sugar sweetness and poached pair.
Dale presented another four aromatic compounds linked to his espresso extraction, which involved a 20-gram dose and 44-gram extraction. As he prepared this course he introduced the judges to a “sensory placer” – four objects linked to the aromatic compounds in his espresso.
He asked the judges to smell the aromas of the items in front of them. First were cubes connected to the aroma of dried fruits and a taste note of pomegranate. Then came spheres, which contained compounds linked to sweet and floral aromas, and a taste note of Ethiopian honey. The judges then lifted a pyramid containing the aroma of caramelised orange, and a glass vile, in which Dale asked the judges to tilt to observe the fluidity of the liquid, in reference to how his espresso would move in the cup.
Dale presented his signature drinks on a table behind the judges before asking them to turn around. It was only at this late point that he revealed his coffee – a fully washed 2L28 from Finca Las Brumas in El Salvador.
Using GCMS, Dale identified three aromatic compounds tied to the long maturation of this coffee. The first was linked to botanical and herbaceous aromas. Dale infused 88 grams of espresso with four grams of pre-washed a Japanese Oolong from the Kyoto region, which exuded a “positive botanical bitterness”.
His second compound was tied to the aroma of sweet cocoa. He infused 125 grams of hot water with 30 grams of lactose-fermented cocoa nibs, which he then strained over 60 grams of ice to dilute and chill. He fermented these ingredients for three days in a solution of a sourdough culture that he had been cultivating for six years, and added five grams to each drink.
The third compound was linked to cream. Dale took 250 millilitres of fresh milk and added 80 grams of a citric acid solution of 4.6pH, which separated away from the milk and clarified through a paper filter. He added five grams of this to each drink, shook all the ingredients together, and charged it with Nitrogen dioxide to create a creamy mouthfeel. The cold beverage served on ice contained flavours of dark chocolate and oolong bitterness. A second sip gave flavours of cream soda.
Dale concluded by explaining why he left the farm information to the end of his presentation.
“Its the most important [information] of all, but when we give it away without context, it doesn’t have that value,” he said in his closing statement. “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.”
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.
BeanScene congratulates this year’s winner and all the finalists – and a special mention to the Australian WBC judges attending the event in Seoul: Brydon Price of La Marzocco, and Michaela Gerard and Craig Dickson of Veneziano Coffee Roasters (Craig judged Dale’s Semi Finals routine).
Image credit: Leo Lui