Barista Magazine’s editor Sarah Allen and publisher Kenneth R. Olson have been personally reporting on and photographing the World Barista Championship final round since 2005, when Barista Magazine launched. Sarah sits at the side of the stage, madly typing as she records the performance of each finalist, while Ken traverses the stage with his camera, stopping back by the side of the stage periodically so Sarah can download his photos.
The result is live reporting on each finalist, with photos up to the minute from the stage. But since the WBC finals day is a pretty busy one in the world of coffee, sometimes these posts that showcase the amazing talents of the 6 WBC finalists get lost in the shuffle.
We decided to repost them individually this week to give each finalist the attention they so richly deserve.
BY SARAH ALLEN
PHOTOS BY KENNETH R. OLSON
Swoon: I love Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood (I think I even told him that after a couple of beers at a party the other night). He’s the consummate professional, he’s a walking definition of the quintessential charming Brit, he’s terribly droll, he’s exceptionally nice. He’s just one of those really good people.
He’s also no stranger to this stage: today marks his third appearance not just at the WBC but in the WBC finals. He placed 6th at the WBC in Vienna in 2012, and he placed 5th at the WBC in Rimini in 2014. I’m thinking there’s a pretty big possibility that he’s going to speed right past fourth or third ”or even second ”today. He’s just one of the best baristas doing this that there is.
Maxwell and his wife, Lesley (with whom I’m possibly even more in love than I am with Maxwell, frankly), own Colonna & Smalls, a cafe, and recently another retail space serving both coffee and beer, in Bath, England. Thanks in large part to them, Bath now has a well defined and growing specialty-coffee scene. Perhaps it’s time for a visit?
Maxwell is using a Colombian coffee here today that he described not only in exceptional detail, but with a very genuine intimacy ”he knows this stuff for reals. I only say that because, while I can’t complain about baristas talking about origins, farms, and specific producers in their competition routines, fairly often they’re reciting it; it’s not a personal experience. It’s not something they have lived. Maxwell, on the other hand, lives this coffee. He has tasted coffee from all over the region in southwestern Colombia where his coffee comes from. But the one he loved the best came from a cooperative called Daytana (not entirely sure I’m spelling that correctly). It’s a 9-year-old coop with only ”I think he said ”50 members. Maxwell said, “Colombia is one of those coffee origins that us coffee people get extremely excited about,” and he’s right. He’s so right.
His performance is a playful study in temperature variation and acidity. It’s a literal study in that his wife, Lesley, created these insane blocks of ice for the espresso shots he pulled at the beginning of his performance to sit in and cool while he went through his espressos and cappuccinos. In another still larger block of ice, he had extractions of “acidity driven ingredients”: pomegranate, cranberry, the skins of black grapes, and walnuts. He combined them all, then added a small amount to the espressos. Also in the cup to infuse the tactile balance he loves about his coffee were tiny amounts of brown sugar syrup and arrowroot syrup.
Maxwell, it was beautiful. It was fun. It was professional, thoroughly entertaining, innovative, creative, and just an absolute pleasure to watch. Thank you ”I’m speaking on behalf of our whole coffee community.