Nordic Barista Cup 2013

Three intense days of competitions and lectures, characterized by the pleasant tastes and aromas of the best Brazilian coffees

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The appointment for the Nordic Barista Cup opening event was scheduled on Thursday, 5 September at 8 o’clock at Scenebygget, in the heart of Oslo, Norway. This technological location, yet of historic interest and natural beauty, is directly connected with the food market-hall, Mathallen, where coffee and its extraction methods are the protagonists of the whole week. After having a breakfast based on brioches and dry fruit, we visited the venue. On the first floor were the competition stations where the five teams from Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland were going to prepare their coffees (manual brew, machine brew and espresso). Faithful to its mission of constantly pursuing quality, Dalla Corte sponsored the event once again: each competition station was equipped with two dc pro espresso machines and two dc one grinders. On the first floor were a lecture hall and a tasting area. The products of many sponsoring companies were on sale at the bazaar, the proceeds of which were destined to the Association of Parents and Friends of Exceptional (APAE) of Carmo de Minas, Brazil, which helps people with disabilities. The team of each nation was formed by three fellow citizens and by one person from this year’s focus Country – Brazil. The coffees to be extracted with the three methods were: Fazenda Passeio, a natural Bourbon from Sul de Minas; a natural Yello Cauaì Bourbon from Mogiana; Fazenda Recreio, a natural Yello Bourbon from the Mogiana region; Café Brauna, a natural Catuaì from the Matas de Minas region.
The first day’s lectures tackled the topic of service related to filter coffee. The lecture was opened by René Redzepi, chef and co-owner of Noma restaurant in Copenhagen (Denmark), who considers coffee not just as a meal-closing drink, but rather as an occasion for people to study, taste and reflect under the guidance of the person who serves coffee, a kind of “coffee sommelier”. Milk and sugar are served at the table, but customers are invited to taste the drink as it is, to better identify its aromas. Meanwhile, the Nordic Roaster Competition 2013 started, in which roasters had to deliver the coffees that would then be prepared for and tasted by all the 200 attendees at the event. In the afternoon, Alex Berson, of, underlined the importance of sociality in the service experience, necessary to prevent customers from feeling alone also in crowded places. Finally Pontus Dahlstöm, co-owner of Maaemo restaurant in Oslo, 2 Michelin stars, explained his philosophy based on the search of absolute quality in coffee and kokekaffe, a boiled coffee that is prepared and served at the table in wooden jugs by well-trained staff. That same night, a social event took place at the Brazilian embassy in Oslo, where the Ambassador explained the importance of coffee for Brazil economy and in many Brazilians’ everyday lives.
Friday, 6 September
A very busy day dealing with technique. The first lecture was focused on the research carried out by Francisca Listov-Saabe, NBC researcher, and Randy Pope, of Bunn, on the different grinding techniques for filter coffee. These are affected by several factors, such as the roast colour, the quenching process, the botanical variety, the environment humidity, but above all by the type of burrs and the gap between them. Extremely important are therefore grind size and the grind curve, showing the distribution of particles depending on their dimensions – which can be determined with a set of sieves for filter coffee or coarser grinds and with laser diffraction for coffee destined to the espresso. Differences in ground coffee characteristics, however, do not correspond to as many discrepancies in its taste, except for it is sweeter when it is ground with conical burrs and more acid when flat burrs are used. Emma Bladyka, SCAA scientific manager, talked about the role of science in helping us understand the why behind Specialty coffee. A long, exacting research program considering both technique and sensoriality was carried out in two Countries of origin: in Brazil, where quality has increased over the last 16 years thanks to the work of many state associations, and in Colombia, where the results have been very positive as well. The target: making the research accessible to all.
After the second Nordic Roaster trial, the topic of water – “the main ingredient of coffee” – was tackled by Scott Guglielmino. The four elements affecting extraction quality are water TDS (Total Dissolved Solids), hardness (the content of calcium and magnesium ions), pH (potential of Hydrogen) and alkalinity (capacity to neutralize acids), which need to be all correctly balanced (acid water, for instance, can corrode metals, while hard water causes limescale formation). A periodic control of these values is an advisable routine for all baristas. Finally, some filter coffees obtained with waters of different hardness were tasted. Instead of the 150 ppm (parts-per-million, i.e. the quantity of calcium and magnesium dissolved in water) – considered as the optimum hardness by the World Barista Championship –, the attendees preferred the 50 ppm water, which is lighter and capable of exalting coffee’s sweet taste (while the harder water preferred by WBC gives more body and helps creating the crema on the surface of the espresso). Finally, the participants’ well-trained senses were guided to the discovery of wine aromas: two wines from France – Fêtembulles 2010 – Jean-Pierre Robinot and Chablis Château de Béru –, one from Italy – Susucaru 5 – and one from Austria – St. Laurent 2009 – Burgeland.
Saturday, 7 September
Saturday’s schedule was full of cupping sessions, which opened the day and culminated with the Nordic Roaster Cup final, in which all the 200 attendees at the event were given 5 cups of espresso they had to taste and judge in half an hour. On the ground floor, teams’ concentration in finding the maximum co-ordination and obtaining an excellent product in cup was at its peak. Teams were best helped by dc pro espresso machines and dc one grinders by Dalla Corte: ground coffee is always perfect and never overheated, also in case of prolonged intense work, due to the grinder’s efficient quenching system, while the accurate control of each group ensures the maximum thermal constancy of every single espresso that is brewed.
On the final day, sustainability was tackled. Felice Croce introduced the topic “Benefits and Challenges of Organic Coffee Farming”, reporting on his experience with his Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza, in Brazil, which has the mission of being socially, environmentally and economically sustainable. Avoiding the use of chemical products to respect the environment means earning lower profits: this is certainly a difficult choice to be made and nobody should be forced to make it. However, it is important to think of future generations and of the environment they will inherit. After lunch, the basic principles of biodynamic agriculture were presented by Cinthya Sandberg, owner of Love Apple Farms, California: 22 acres of biodynamic garden destined to the cultivation of vegetables used exclusively at Manresa restaurant (2 Michelin stars). Finally, Christer Söderberg of the Open World Foundation explored the topic: “Organic Coffee – Choice or Necessity?”.
Next, all attendees reached the Mathallen for the auction of products provided by the companies: the big and colorful food-hall was hosting the last day of its “Coffee week” with booths, demonstrations and tasting sessions of various coffees and extraction methods. It was Brazil’s day and Capoeira rhythms could be heard in the background. Protagonist of the espresso was Dalla Corte with its complete “system” for the preparation of coffee from bean to cup, based on the constant dialogue between dc pro espresso machine and dc one on demand grinder, which adjusts grind and dose automatically, if necessary, thus ensuring perfect extractions, cup after cup.
Then, the prize-giving ceremony took place: “The winner for the 2013 Nordic Barista Cup is… team Sweden!”. Daniela, Anna, Oskar and Tobias exulted with their 2624 score (Norway scored 2568 and Denmark 2541 points). It was now time to celebrate and make friends; there were still so many things to say and share – we decided to save them for our next meeting. We are going to meet again next year in Copenhagen, Denmark, united by the passion for the culture of coffee, an important incentive for the growth of the whole sector.
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