We’re only just starting to come back down to earth after the announcement of our very own Dan Fellows as the 2016 UKBC Winner. Not only that but his clean sweep of ‘best in category’ titles. After cornering Dan in the Roastery here’s a bit about what went in to securing this impressive title.
For anyone that’s not familiar with the UKBC – what's it all about?
The UK Barista Championships is the premiere showcase of the world’s best coffees, roasters and baristas. It’s the World Cup of Speciality coffee.
Why’s it so important to speciality coffee?
Everyone who’s passionate about it gets to showcase new developments in the industry; it’s an opportunity to learn and develop.
Why’s it so important to you? Why did you choose to compete?
It keeps me up to date with what’s going on in the industry, which is hugely important in my role.
I also learn so much each year I compete, and as much about non-coffee related things such as time management. And ironing.
How long have you been competing for and what do you think gave you the edge?
I’ve been competing for five years now and each year I’ve improved. The difference between this year and last year? So many things. Amazing support from the Origin team, better ability, more time to practice and using an incredible coffee. I also got more time to work with and get to know the coffee before the competition this year.
What was your competition coffee and why did you choose it?
Quite simply it was the best coffee I’d ever tasted. Joshua had sourced it for one of our Special Edition Series and it blew my mind. It’s Nekisse which is a naturally processed coffee from Ethiopia, grown by the prestigious Ninety Plus. I’m incredibly lucky to have access to a coffee like it.
How did you come up with the idea for your routine?
From last year’s competition feedback. The judges commented on the fact that I was very precise so I decided to play to my strengths and make ‘precision’ a central concept in this year’s routine. When I was introduced to Nekisse and the precision which Ninety Plus had put into farming it, then everything fell into place.
Tell us a bit about your Signature Drink and why you chose it.
My Sig Drink was about incorporating flavours that both complimented and contrasted with Nekisse, which I didn’t want to deviate too much from. Strawberry, passionfruit and cocoa where the flavours I incorporated to complement the espresso and to contrast I added single cream, blood orange and molasses syrup. In the World Championships I’m going to evolve these contrasting ones to pineapple and coconut cream.
Pic with thanks to Sprudge.com
What goes into preparing for a competition of this level?
Huge amounts of preparation, practise and organisation. I started preparing back in December. I spent hours calculating brewing efficiencies to give me more time to talk and present during the routine. The rationale being that the more automatic I can make the objective parts of the routine, the more time I can give to those that are subjective.
In the weeks leading up to the competition I practised for hours and hours to anyone who’d watch. My girlfriend (who put in almost as many hours as me). The team at Charlotte Road. Friends, family. Practising in front of people was a massive help and something which definitely gave me an edge on last year.
Did you know you’d won?
The judges gave nothing away. As they were announcing the best in categories and one-by-one my name was being said I could see the Origin team beginning to stand up. Even then it wasn’t until they announced who had come second and my name hadn’t been said that it started dawning on me that it could be a possibility that I’d actually won.
Pic with thanks to Sprudge.com
Will you be competing again next year?
It really depends on the World Championships and how my routine goes. I’m a self-proclaimed perfectionist and wasn’t fully happy with my performance in the UKBC – there was a bit of a technical hitch which meant that I had to work back-to-front which effected the routine. I lost around 20 points because of it so it wasn’t the best it could have been. When I feel it’s gone as well as it can go, that’s probably when I’ll stop.
Who have you got your eye on going into the WBC?
I try not to worry about what other people are doing or be influenced by that. I’m just going to focus on myself and ensuring I’m as prepared as possible. That’s something I can control. Having said that, I do think Lem from the US is incredible– he’s been competing for eleven years and is testament to hard work paying off.
Dan will be heading to Dublin for the World Barista Championships on 23-25 June. Here he’ll battle it out with over 50 nations. It’ll be an epic showcase of professional barista skill, creativity and coffee excellence. Get your flights booked now.