Whether its regional, national or international, putting yourself forward to compete in a coffee competition can be both exciting and terrifying all at once. It’s an opportunity to express your passion for coffee, showcase your flair and build on your confidence.
We are honoured to be so closely connected to the Specialty Coffee Association UK Chapter, which is the only platform that leads to the World Coffee Championships. Our Cafe Racer Machine sponsorship over the past three years has enabled Sanremo UK to be fully immersed in the action at the UK competitions.
We want to offer some constructive advice to baristas who are thinking about taking the leap of faith to compete in the UK Latte Art Championships for the first time. Who better to turn to for this invaluable knowledge than the people that have been there themselves! Here’s what they had to say…
If it’s your first time performing under the judges’ watchful eye, feeling nervous is more than normal - especially if you’re up against baristas that have been in the game for a while. Tazmin Ford, who competed in the 2019 event had this advice: “As the youngest competitor, I felt quite a lot of pressure on myself to perform well. I took a deep breath, I closed my eyes and focused on enjoying myself as much as I could, just like I would a shift on the shop floor. Practice the rules and practice the design before the day of the competition, then you can aim all your attention on having a wonderful time and enjoying the community you're surrounded in!”
Whether it’s a holiday, your favourite food or a really really long bike ride (see previous post), lots of experiences can inspire your performance.
Heidi Philip-Smith, who has been a UK latte art finalist for three years running suggests watching previous World Latte Art routines to explore different presenting styles and patterns. Letting others be part of your journey is another way to conquer nerves and gain support: “Practice your routine in front of people and get their feedback. Have someone train with you, maybe a fellow competitor so you can help with each other’s routines. It makes it a little less daunting.”
Ben Lewis, a previous runner up who is competing for the third time this year, also recommends drawing inspiration from others: “Watch other people, go on YouTube and Instagram to see what other people are doing first and get inspired. From there be you can be creative and do what you plan instead of copying other people.”
Practice makes perfect may sound cliché, but regular exercise of a skill is probably the best way to become proficient in it. In this case, there's a lot more to competing than just the latte art itself, for example, the setup, clean down and verbal aspect of the performance.
Ben Rowe, a first-time competitor in 2019, offered these handy tips: “Read the rules - if you don’t know what you are/are not allowed to do in practice time or on the stage- you set yourself up to underachieve. Set checkpoints in your routine, where should you be when the clock hits 1 minute? What should you be saying? There is a really small allotted time to set up, use it efficiently and treat it as part of your performance."
Unless adrenaline becomes your best friend when you’re under pressure, we wouldn’t recommend setting the bar too high for yourself. “It’s better to try and do patterns that you know you can do. If you go into a competition with a really complex design that you’ve only just mastered, there’s very little chance you’ll be able to do that on the day. Stick with what you’re good at and make sure you’ve really nailed what you’re doing,” very wise words from Will Pitts, 2019 Latte Art Champion.
Whilst there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be best and pull off the biggest, most impressive designs, you may find that sticking to something a little simpler delivers better results on the day- especially if you’re feeling nervous!
All in all, the recurring recommendations from the latte artists we spoke to were to make sure you are clued up on the rules and regulations, enjoy the time you have on the stage and don’t worry if it doesn’t go as well as you hoped...there’s always next year!
We were very pleased to have all of these talented baristas at out recent Warm Up event in the build-up to the UK Latte Art Championships and Coffee in Good Spirits Championships... view the event gallery here