With the 2017 competition season firmly underway, and with two new champions already crowned, now seems a good time to look at the state of the competition circuit in the UK, to outline what we as a national chapter have been doing since we took the job on and what our plans are for the future.
In the 18 months since we took up our positions on the board we’ve had one aim, to grow the competitions. This sounds more that a little vague, but it encompasses many goals, namely;
To increase numbers in the non-UKBC competitions, namely Latte Art, Cigs, Cuptasters and Brewers Cup. This meant a commitment to….
• Expanding the nature of all competitions to include regional heats, or multi-day events. Although this seems like a no brainer, this takes planning and serious resources.
• An increased focus on professionalism as preparation for the World events. Put simply our competitions should serve to give our UK champion the best possible preparation for the World finals. To this end we have mirrored the Worlds finals wherever possible at the national level, this includes schedules, competition format and where possible equipment.
• To increase the standard of our judging pool through more structured training and calibration. In an ideal world, the judging will be perfectly consistent across all competitions, and whilst this is impossible, our aim to to be as consistent as is possible. To this end we’ve upped both the number of judges available and the number of training and calibration sessions throughout the season.
• To expand our range of competitions to include both Ibrik and Roasters. Obviously this takes time, and whilst Roasters is a huge success, we have yet to reintroduce Ibrik.
• To make competitions as easy and fun as is possible for the competitors. If we hit our other goals, this one will follow.
These goals have impacted each competition in varying ways, let me explain our reasoning behind the changes.
UKBC - The flagship competition. Last year saw an expansion of the regional heats with us returning to London after a years break and finding new venues in both Bristol and Glasgow and with the final returning to the London Coffee Festival. Whilst not all of these were a success, we made good progress on both the structure and logistics of the events, a learning experience we can plough back into this year's competition.
This year we’re expanding again, by adding a northern heat, hopefully in Manchester. In response to feedback from competitors and judges, we’ve reduced the number of competitors in each heat from 20 to 14, giving us 56 across all 4 heats, the same intake as 2016. The reason for this twofold, firstly it helps logistically. With less crowded practice areas and less competitors to manage, the competition runs smoother. Secondly judging is an arduous task, and 10 competitors per day was simply too many. Our aim is to increase the level of our judging by reducing the workload.
The final this year will be much later, taking advantage of the World’s not being until November 2017, the venues for this will be announced soon.
Brewers Cup - This is rapidly becoming the second biggest competition. Last year saw us run heats for the first time, as well as a Worlds style two day finals, both were a huge success.
This year our aim is to hold more regional heats, with 3 currently proposed in Bristol, London and Leeds. The Final will then be held at the Glasgow Coffee Festival. The format will remain the same, but we are aiming to have a more structured judges training and calibration session.
Coffee in Good Spirits - A few years ago this competition had only three entries, it was very much the forgotten man. Last year we moved it to a new home, at the annual La Marzocco event in London, securing both them and Grey Goose Vodka as title sponsors. This saw a threefold increase in entries for what was our most successful CIGS to date.
This year we are back at La Marzocco and the competition has expanded over two days, to mimic the World Finals. Timing pressures meant limiting the entries to 10 was necessary, but these sold out within a week of release. A great sign of the growing interest in CIGS.
Latte Art - This is perhaps the competition that is the biggest victim of its success. This is the third year that is will be held at the La Marzocco event in December, and the second alongside the CIGS competition. Last years event proved so successful, that our decision to limit the number of entrants to 16, 2 less than last year, has proved to be unpopular. There is however solid reasoning behind it.
Despite more tickets being available, only 16 were sold last year, so limiting it to that number seemed reasonable. Whilst the demand has shown itself to consider regional heats since the announcement of the 2017 competition, it was demonstrably not there before, our planning for future years will take this into account. Secondly our desire was to expand the event itself, to encompass two days as it is at the World's. This made the timings very tight and the pure logistics warranted a drop in competitor numbers.
Our hope is that we will produce a champion better prepared for the challenge of the World's.
Cuptasters - Our biggest success story. Once an afterthought, two years of hosting the competition at the Manchester Coffee Festival has allowed us to expand this to be a real test of both stamina and palette. This year saw 36 competitors, fours rounds of competition over two days. Next year will be even bigger.
Roasters Competition - The newest competition, only two years old in the UK and already growing. This year saw 14 competitors and a waiting list for what is a testing three day competition. It's a very different feel to the other competitions, far more communal and a valuable learning tool for all the attendees. Our thanks got to Roasters Guild Of Europe members Lisa from Dear Green and John from Coffee Nexus for being the driving forces behind introducing the competition.
Hopefully this answers a lot of questions about the direction we are taking, but if you do have any queries, please get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org