The International National Espresso International (INEI) hosted its 2014 Championship in London for the first time in the stunning RAC Club. They brought together 15 top Baristas from around the world to compete the for ultimate accolade of overall champion.
Each Barista had to make 4 cups of espresso and 4 cups of cappuccino and clean up in 11 minutes. Two groups of judges awarded points. the Technical Judges awarded points for technique, speed, presentation and cleanliness. The Sensory judges who had the overriding votes, tasted for the quality of the coffee produced, the coffee blend and flavour.
Each contestant used a different brand of coffee which seemed to be all Italian (all members of the INEI).
The overall winner of the Espresso Italiano Championship 2014 was Filippo Mezzaro representing Torrefazione Saturno.
Expert Espresso Tasting
I had a mini Espresso Tasting masterclass with Fabio of Cortadoro Coffee Lab, the team that won the best espresso.
Fabio tutored me on the elements that affect a cup of espresso. The taste of an espresso made by a professional barista on a professional coffee machine is quite different in the hands of an amateur. I tasted a cup made by the guy manning the coffee machine and it was highly acidic and bitter.
Fabio stepped in to make a second cup using the same beans from his company, a single estate, high altitude Ethiopian Arabica bean. He firstly flushed the machine, then cooled the coffee bean holder in a bucket of ice (as too high a heat makes it bitter and acidic). He then tamped in down tightly and smoothly and let the water flow for 25 seconds.
This produced a completely different espresso which was aromatic with no acidity, no bitterness but surprisingly sweet with very distinct fruity flavours.
The difference in preparation was not discernible to the average person. Makes me wonder at how poor our coffee experience is at the average high street coffee shop. This really highlights the importance of proper training for baristas as you can have the best quality product but badly executed would result in a very poor experience and taste.
The Italian Espresso National Institute safeguards and promotes the original Espresso
through a product certification. Each member company which complies with the certification requirements has the right to use the mark Espresso Italiano Certificato (Certified Italiano Espresso). More information here: www.espressoitaliano.org