Barista’s are duking it out for the #BaristaChallenge

“Coffee is a language in itself.” – Jackie Chan

As an ex-barista (a long time ago) I was thrilled to hear that there was a mini Barista Challenge happening in Vancouver from Aug. 28 – Sept. 25th, and even more so when I was invited on a media tour to check out some of the creations.

Vancouver Foodster led a small group on a mini tour last weekend to sample the concoctions of a few of the competitors. I was joined by Jeremy and Adrian (TheFoodGays) and Sean Nield (YVRBCbro). While they thought it quickest to move by bus, I quickly proved them otherwise as I sped along on my bicycle. Whether fuelled by excitement, or fuelled by caffeine, there was no denying that it was the quicker option.

Our first stop of the day was all the way up Main Street on the corner of 27th, at Continental Coffee. This family owned-and-operated business has been going strong for three decades. Main Street is their second location, as their first location is on Commercial Drive.

Continental Coffee

Barista: Nick Allan

Signature Beverage Creation: Dark Chocolate, Roasted Garlic, and Orange Essence Macchiato

Nick knew right from the get-go that he would be using chocolate in his submission for the Barista Challenge. Rather than using Continental’s regular milk chocolate syrup though, he decided that for his creation he would need to make a dark chocolate syrup. And so he did.

While garlic isn’t something you see alongside chocolate often, it isn’t unheard of. In the past, Nick has seen combinations of garlic and chocolate in the form of a chocolate bar from Denman Island Chocolates (you can assume that this was part of the inspiration behind the drink). By roasting the garlic the taste sweetens and the flavour is less “harsh”, so it’s not an unfathomable combination.

The idea behind Nick’s macchiato is to have a “layered experience” where you travel from one taste to the other: roasted garlic, orange, chocolate, espresso. He decided to put the orange zest on the side plate so the consumer can dictate how much citrus flavour is added. I may have been overzealous as I seemingly twisted too much, leaving the dominant flavour unquestionably orange. It wasn’t chocolatey like a mocha, but had a nuance of the taste. I would’ve preferred it with a hint of sweetness to really contrast with the savoury, citrusy, and bitter flavours. Also, finishing off the macchiato with a chunk of garlic in my mouth was weird. B for flavour. A+ for creativity and latté art!

Barista: Hanna Little

Signature Beverage Creation: Kona Berry Superfruit Lemonade

This concoction is made from the juices extracted from the skin of the kona berry (Hawaiian coffee fruit). It is not caffeinated and is rich in antioxidants. Hanna added the kona berry juice to freshly squeezed lemonade to create her delicious beverage that is perfect for the potential “Indian Summer” on the horizon. It is sweet, refreshing and vibrantly coloured!

Betty at Burrard

Barista:  Angela Ogniben

Signature Beverage Creation: Shakerato Canadese

Angela is from Italy and back home they have a go-to beverage to beat the summer heat that consists of espresso and sugar. It is shaken in a cocktail shaker with ice and then served in either a martini glass, wine glass, or champagne flute to make it feel elegant and sophisticated. Hence, the wine glass that it was served in for us. Angela made a few adjustments to this classic Italian coffee by adding maple syrup, cream or Irish Cream, and topping it with cinnamon.

Her rule of thumb, “never put ice in coffee”. For which I agree, who wants a diluted caffeine fix? And yet you see them everywhere in town.

This tasted like a fairly generic beverage because the other ingredients were lost in the pronounced flavour of the Irish Cream. There was a healthy amount of cinnamon rather than a sprinkling as listed, but fortunately it worked. I enjoyed this beverage, it just wasn’t anything special and tasted like something I could make at home.

Koko Monk

Barista: Paul Dincer

Signature Beverage Creation: Harem a la Turca

“This is the taste of my childhood,” explained Paul.

Turkish coffee is prepared differently than espresso; it’s boiled rather than brewed. Therefore, it has a very unique flavour and mouthful. Paul uses the original coffee bean, Arabica, and stands by Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi.

If you enjoy Turkish coffee than you’ll love this beverage, with its sludgy, slightly chalky taste to it. And if you’ve never had it? All the more reason to check it out. It is complemented with 72% fine Belgian dark chocolate and flavoured with a dash (literally a tsp.) of Courvoisier Cognac, which is optional. Paul may coerce you into having it (in his typical sweet manner), as he did with us. Can you blame him though? It’s his creation, and removing an element changes the overall flavour. He didn’t need to twist my arm, I would’ve added more as it was so subtle I hardly noticed it.

The salted caramel wasn’t melted in mine so I scooped out the chunks and ate them for a burst of sugar, rather than having it added to the actual beverage and sweetening the entirety of the drink. A shame, because the picture on the site had it melted…

Word of advice: opt for the smaller size, our table was struggling to make it through the large. And try a chocolate well you’re at it! I had the chocolate that was “inappropriate to eat in public”. I could tell you what it’s called…or you could just ask for it at the counter.

Also in the challenge:

Wired Monk Fleetwood

Barista: Blandin Luzuka

Signature Beverage Creation: Coffee Crisp

Barista: Louis Luzuka

Signature Beverage Creation: The Incredible Monk

Lost + Found Cafe

Barista: Tony Bullis

Signature Beverage Creation: Coconut Charlie

Barista: Olly Southwell

Signature Beverage Creation: Cool & Deadly

More photos on my Barista Challenge set on Flickr. 

VOTE here: http://bit.ly/15xjnE4

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