NZ leads in World Brewer's Cup judging

Our two World Brewer’s Cup Certified judges Hayden Thompson from member company Pomeroys and Stuart Hargie from member company Bell Tea and Coffee were selected to judge the final of the World Brewer’s Cup Championship.
The World Brewer’s Cup is a fairly new competition which highlights the skill in preparing non-pressurised brew methods. Hayden and Stu felt it was ‘a real privilege’ to try such astonishing coffees, some of the best they had ever tasted in their many years in coffee. And we were lucky enough to get a quick Q & A with Hayden post-Vienna that you can read below.
The World Brewer’s Cup Champion 2012 was Matt Perger from Melbourne, Australia. Coincidentally Melbourne will host the World Championship next year.
Q&A with Hayden & Stuart
What is the Brewer’s Cup competition?
Hayden: WBrC is a competition designed for baristas to brew coffees through brew methods other than an ‘espresso’ and to showcase their skill and knowledge in being able to bring out the best in their specialty coffee. They are required to do two separate rounds, one being the compulsory service and they an open service.
In the compulsory service all baristas use the same coffee and then use the best brew method to showcase the coffee. The brewed coffee is then served to the three judges who don’t see the barista or the method in which they brewed the coffee.
In the open service the barista serves to three judges and talks through the coffee and brew method being used and also describes the taste profile of the coffee in the cup.
Stuart: The competition is like a Barista competition for non espresso brewing. The competition showcases the craft of brewing manually by hand and focuses on the quality of the cup and the competitors customers service skill and knowledge of their coffee and its flavours. Focused more on filter or soft brew style brewing the competitor will showcase a coffee of their choice as well as be tested on who can brew a compulsory coffee whilst creating the best aroma and flavour experience.
How did you become a Brewer’s Cup judge and what experience would be good for judging?
Hayden: To become a brewers cup judge there is a certification test run by the WCE. During the certification there is a written test that covers rules and regulations and also a number of practical sensory-based tests to put your ability to taste coffee under the microscope.
Stuart: The World Coffee Event’s ran certification courses around the globe last year with one being in Wellington, it was an examination on your understanding of the rule and regulations as we as sensory testing on your ability to analysis coffee in a similar fashion to the Q Grade and COE format also flavours were added to coffee in different concoctions and you had to identify the mixture of flavours. Any cupping experience using scoring formats would be of great help to any judge.
Were there any real stand outs that you judged in Vienna?
Hayden: The competition is at a very high standard at world levels, and all baristas were highly knowledgeable and skilled, but the top six competitors were all standouts in their own unique way. Some of the coffee’s that were brought to the judges table were some of the best coffees I have ever tasted. And found myself finishing the cups.
Stuart: It was an absolute privilege to judge the competition and there was not much in it between the top 6 finalists, only 0.5 of a point between 1st and 2nd. The calibre of all those contestants was stand out!! In the final all six coffees were some of the best I have ever tasted!!
It is always great to learn something for a competitor and Matt Perger the eventual winner really did that, as well as having a great presence and service skills he filtered has grinds into an even particle size to eliminate the over extraction of fines and the under extraction of the larger particles the produced an even balance clean and extremely complex cup.
There’s a compulsory section where everyone uses the same coffee, did you notice any real marked differences in quality between competitors or did it all taste the same?
Hayden: Generally the basic tastes of the coffee were very similar but the differences stood out when different brew methods were used which showcased individual strengths of the coffee I.e aroma, balance flavor etc. The idea of the compulsory section is to really highlight the baristas ability to bring the best out of the coffee. Getting coffee, water volumes, and brew time right is so important as all cups serviced are run through a TDS unit to measure the dissolvable solid which can have a big effect on what the judges are tasting and how the scoring is reflected for that cup.
How much is performance and describing the coffee taken into account?
Hayden: Yes In open service the brewers are marked on their performance presentation and their ability to identify accurate taste descriptors within their coffee. If a barista gives a detailed description of what the tastes, and aroma of there coffee has and they are accurate then they will score well in that section of the score sheet. We are also judging on the presentation in relation to the knowledge and also the level of customer service they show to the judges, nerves can be a big thing for some baristas so you are also looking at the way they control them and deliver a natural friendly experience. It nice to see a baristas personality shine through.
Stuart: There are scoring categories for both of these there are Taste Descriptor score, Customer service score and also overall impression scores which count as multiplier points. The competitors needs to specific and relevant taste descriptors to show a real understanding of the coffee and the beverage that they are extraction. Accurate taste descriptors will score highly as well as clear concise communication skills, good eye contact and a real command of their performance.
Will we see a NZ Brewer’s Cup?
Hayden: That’s not really my call but I believe the NZ Specialty Coffee Association has discussed the option of running a Brewers Cup alongside the national barista championship.
This sits well with the fact that the world brewers cup and barista championship are being held in Australia 2013, and would be great to have a NZ champ in both competitions.
With more and more cafes offering V60, Aeropress, and Chemex this is sure to be a fast growing competition with 23 countries being represented this year in Vienna in only its second year at the worlds, this could be the next big thing!
Stuart: I hope so, this competition focuses on coffee, water and the barista. The barista gets to show case the coffee in really pure form, no milk or other ingredients, they can just let a really great coffee shine and speak for its self. There is a resurgence in soft brew coffee and this competition will help that trend grow. It would be great to more of this style of coffee offered in a commercial cafe setting.
You can follow World Brewer’s Cup here: