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Published, Apr 18, 2018

Joshua Tarlo: 2018 UK Barista Champion

Wow, what a weekend. Joshua Tarlo, UKBC 2018 Champion. After celebrating his victory on Saturday in London, he then travelled to the Roastery in Cornwall for Monday morning to profile roast our feature coffees for the month ahead. We caught up with him to get his thoughts on his success.

Congratulations Josh, what inspired you to do enter the UKBC?
I love being involved with the barista side of coffee. It’s the final step in the chain and as a roaster and green buyer I really care about keeping that connection present in my everyday life. The competition lets me get back to my barista roots, focus in and learn again. It’s also really exciting to showcase coffee that I’ve seen growing on the tree, to roasting it, and then finally brewing.

How did you practice your routine?
It’s a really collaborative atmosphere at our training centre with everyone getting together to help each other. A lot of my training is interwoven with the training of others as we practice run throughs, taste coffees and share thoughts. This success is also the success of Will, Paul, Oli, and Dan.

Was there a concept behind your routine?
It centred around the idea of the shared experience and how to extend that through coffee to people who were not present when something originally happened. In coffee we have so many incredible experiences, at cafes, at roasteries or on farms; often though we are alone or with a small group of people when these things happen. I really wanted to figure out how to articulate and recreate my experience with the coffee so that the judges could understand and experience it again right along with me.

What was the biggest challenge you faced when preparing?
Balancing a barista competition during the peak time of the year for coffee sourcing has been a real challenge. Jumping back and forth from the coffee lands to London than back and forth to Cornwall has meant a lot of time away from the espresso machine. But that challenge, being away with producers has also been a massive source of inspiration and drive to share the incredible work of the producers.

You roasted the coffee for 5 out of the 6 finalists, how does that feel?
That was an incredible feeling. Being able to do finals with a big group of friends made the whole process so fun and light for me. Having a group of such capable baristas working with coffee I had roasted was an immense honour. They all really brought some fantastic dimensions out of the coffee. Winning of course feels great but sharing the journey with a group of friends who are using coffees I am really proud of made this all so fantastic.

Do you roast coffee differently for competitions such as the UKBC?
This was actually a lot of what I thought about in the run up to the competition. I took on board the feedback we received from when Dan Fellows competed at World Barista Championships in 2016 with a coffee I roasted. I developed some approaches that looked to highlight flavour definition above everything else so that the coffee was less delicate and more vibrant and intense in specific flavours.

Tell us more about your competition coffee and why you chose it?
I first tasted Mauricio’s coffee three years ago and since then he has sent me samples of different experiments and approaches to processing he has done. This lot, the tartaric fermentation geisha gave me access to the spectrum of flavours that I’ve tasted in his coffee over the years. With that foundation of flavours, I was able to explore and articulate the totality of my experience with La Negrita through roasting and brewing. No other coffee has given me so much possibility to explore, so it was a no brainer to use for the UKBC.

La Negrita Geisha, tartaric fermentation produced by Mauricio Shattah

Have you got any advice for baristas who would like to get into the competitive side of coffee?
Competition can be whatever you want it to be. It can be a way to focus and learn, to share an idea, an innovation, or just to display your skill. Whatever it is to you make sure that you make it something meaningful, not just in the why you’re doing it but the how. There are a lot of places in the competition for creativity, embrace the chance the competition gives you to be creative and it will mean more to you and no matter the result you’ll grow from the experience.

Joshua will be heading to Amsterdam for the World Barista Championships on 20-23 June.