During the Horecava event yesterday, 5 finalists competed for the opportunity to show their Barista and cocktail skills in the 'Coffee in Good Spirits' competition (CiGS) as a representative of the Netherlands in Melbourne. Amidst the night life stands and the heavy smells of beer and food, Irish Coffees were presented and signature drinks crafted.
Now, as a Barista myself, I shared the thoughts that many Baristas have, which is that the Coffee in Good Spirits competition does not really belong in the same line as all the other coffee competitions. Where this notion comes from, I don't really know. Is it that Baristas belittle bartenders? Or just don't know that much about cocktails? Do they just miss more coffee methods during the eight minute run? Or does the abbreviation confuse them, making them think of lighting up a cigarette, instead of staying to watch the fun go down?
I do not have the answer. But it was very clear that the small and tight knit Dutch coffee community was very poorly represented. Which is too bad, because I have to say, it was inspiring!
Not really being a very big drinker myself, of alcoholic drinks that is, I was not expecting this. But as second runner up Frans Taapken said on the stage, paraphrasing: "Both coffee and alcoholic beverages are beautiful products. And together they can make something even more beautiful".
The competition was stiff, with former coffee champions in all different kinds of disciplines competing, resulting in very creative signatures and creative Irish Coffees, using the most beautiful products in order to create new, exiting, original and balanced drinks. And in the end, this is what making a good cup of coffee (or a good glass of cocktail) is all about, right? CiGS is Coffee Geeking on a higher level, what really should result in the same kind of respect as the Barista competition. Because where do you start?
What coffee do you want to use? Will it be an espresso based Irish Coffee, or filter? What type or whiskey fits that coffee the best? What kind of cream do you add? And how are you going to whip that cream up, to what consistency? And that is only for the obligatory Irish Coffee. As any Coffee Nerd will be able to tell you, every single coffee tastes different. And a different coffee will work together with a different type of product in different ways. A 7 year old balsamic vinegar will add a different note to your semi washed Yirgacheffe, than an 8 year old balsamic vinegar.
In that sense Baristas come pretty close to gastronomy. (On a side note: this is also what Rene Redzepi found when his famous Noma restaurant started pouring speciality coffee; the dynamics between his chefs and his coffee making personnel changed completely.)
And so, what Coffee in Good Spirits is all about is taste. Sweet, acidic, bitter, salt, mouthfeel, and personal references, all balancing up to a gorgeous drink that will inspire whomever has the luck to drink it all up, to want to be able to brew that too.
On that note, keep an eye out for the next blog, as CiGS winner Jose Mollura will share details on his winning recipes! Whooooeiii, exiting!
Read about the complete results of the competition on SCAENederland.