Extracted Development: Exploring Cup North’s Unique Coffee Competition

We sit down with Grace Talbot, Cup North’s partnership & content manager, to uncover the concept and ethos behind the Extracted Development competition.

BY VASILEIA FANARIOTI
SENIOR ONLINE CORRESPONDENT

Extracted Development is a unique coffee competition by Cup North that pairs barista and roaster competitors to showcase their skills in brewing and roasting. Since its inception in 2014, Cup North has transformed into an independent events company dedicated to championing the value of specialty coffee through inclusive and engaging events. 

Beginning in Manchester, U.K., Cup North’s footprint has expanded to include Birmingham and, most recently, Dublin, Ireland. At the Dublin Coffee Festival, I had the opportunity to witness the Extracted Development competition firsthand and sit down with Grace Talbot, the partnership & content manager of Cup North, who played a pivotal role in conceptualizing the competition.

Barista and roaster competitors showcase their skills in brewing during Extracted Development. Photo by Reda May.

Embracing Barista and Roaster Talent

At the heart of Extracted Development is a deep appreciation for the artistry and expertise of both baristas and roasters. The competition pairs barista and roaster competitors to pool their talents; each duo must present an espresso, a plant-based milk drink, and a filter coffee within an 18-minute time slot.

The emphasis isn’t just on technical proficiency but also on the sensory and customer-service experience. A diverse panel of judges oversees the competition, each playing a distinct role in evaluating participants’ performances. Experience Judges assess the overall customer experience, while Skills Judges verify technique and consistency.

The Mystery Judge, whose identity remains concealed, observes competitors’ customer-service skills and evaluates their commitment to sustainability. Together, these judges ensure fairness, accuracy, and a holistic assessment of competitors’ abilities.

Grace Talbot, Cup North’s partnership & content manager. Photo by Reda May.

Creating a Safe Space for All

When I asked Grace about the idea behind the Mystery Judge, she shared a personal anecdote from her initial competition experience. She recounted a moment of nervousness during her first attempt at competing, leading to her not tamping.

“When designing this competition, my priority was to ensure that if a competitor experienced a moment of anxiety on stage or encountered a setback, they wouldn’t feel discouraged or give up,“ Grace says. “It felt important to provide another opportunity for competitors to showcase their skills and personalities, perhaps in a more comfortable setting. So, that’s what the Mystery Judge is there for.“

By keeping the judge’s identity concealed, competitors can interact with them naturally without feeling pressured or judged, creating a more relaxed and supportive environment for everyone involved in the competition.

Skills Judges play a vital role in verifying technique and consistency among competitors at Extracted Development. Photo by Reda May.

Grace told me she also wanted to provide roasters with an opportunity to engage with the audience: “Roasters often lack opportunities to directly engage with audiences and share their expertise. By providing a welcoming environment, we hope to foster meaningful interactions between roasters and attendees, allowing for insightful discussions about the overall craft of specialty coffee.”

The audience plays a crucial role in the competition as well. Attendees can engage with competitor teams at the dedicated competition brew bar, where they can sample competition coffees and discover each team’s distinctive approach.

The Audience Favorite award adds an interactive element, allowing attendees to vote based on their experience with the competitor teams’ products and customer service. Additionally, an audience member has the chance to join the Experience Judges as an honorary guest judge on stage and receive a firsthand experience of the competition coffee.

Participants showcase their collective talents in espresso, plant-based milk drinks, and filter coffee. Photo courtesy of Cup North.

Fostering Collaboration and Promoting Sustainability

One of the most distinctive features of Extracted Development is its emphasis on teamwork and collaboration. Competitor teams are randomly paired, encouraging participants to meet virtually and in person before the competition to fine-tune their routines. In Dublin, the team of barista Ally Keegan and roaster Gabriel Tudorin won the Overall Extracted Development Champion award.

Ally, a newly minted barista from Cork, reflected on her journey into Extracted Development: “When I first heard about Extracted Development, I wasn’t even sure if I had what it takes. I mean, I’d only been behind the espresso machine for a few months in Cork, learning the ropes. But something about the idea of teamwork and collaboration really spoke to me. So, I decided to throw my hat in the ring.“

Competitors Ally Keegan and Gabriel Tudorin reflect on their teamwork and success at Extracted Development. Photo by Reda May.

Gabriel adds, “It’s funny how things work out sometimes. Ally and I chatted endlessly about our approach but we only actually met in person and practiced one day before the competition. We had all these plans and strategies, but we knew we had to put them to the test. And somehow, it all clicked into place.“

Beyond the barista’s craft and the roaster’s expertise, Extracted Development places a significant emphasis on environmental consciousness. Competitors are required to source their competition coffee from their pre-existing range. Moreover, each team must complete an Environmental Awareness Checklist, demonstrating their commitment to eco-friendly practices.

The relaxed atmosphere of Extracted Development fosters enjoyment and camaraderie among competitors. Photo courtesy of Cup North.

Celebrating Coffee Craftsmanship and Accessibility

Being at the Dublin Coffee Festival and witnessing Extracted Development firsthand was a unique experience. Having been to a few coffee competitions, I enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere, the evident enjoyment of the competitors, and the accessible nature of the competition in terms of participant costs and experience levels.

“Our festivals aim to celebrate the value of specialty coffee inclusively and accessible, while also addressing environmental concerns,“ Grace explained. “As we developed this competition, our guiding principle was to ensure it aligns with Cup North’s ethos and seamlessly integrates into our festival.“

I look forward to seeing what the team comes up with for the future of this competition to further enrich the experience for both competitors and attendees alike.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Vasileia Fanarioti (she/her) is a senior online correspondent for Barista Magazine and a freelance copywriter and editor with a primary focus on the coffee niche. She has also been a volunteer copywriter for the I’M NOT A BARISTA NPO, providing content to help educate people about baristas and their work.

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