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Bailies coffee experts scoop two prestigious industry awards

From left, Sarah Hannaway, Irish Barista Champion 2020, and Stephen Houston, Irish Brewers Cup & Irish Aeropress Champion 2019.

Cups of a different kind are being raised in celebration at Bailies Coffee Roasters after two of its expert coffee employees scooped the top accolades from The Speciality Coffee Association (SCA).

Sarah Hannaway was crowned Irish Barista Champion 2020, while Bailies Head Roaster Stephen Houston was named Irish Brewers Cup & Irish Aeropress Champion 2019.

Founded more than 20 years ago, Belfast-based Bailies Coffee Roasters has become one of the UK and Europe’s leading specialty roasters supplying to trade, companies and the public. From sourcing and import to roasting and brewing, Bailies follow their coffee from cherry to cup and are one of a handful of roasters dedicated to continuing direct trade with farming regions.

“From sensory skills and roasting competitions, the SCA coffee championships are notoriously difficult and time-consuming,” said Jan Komarek, director and green bean coffee buyer. “But they are worth all the preparation as they promote some truly amazing talents.

“Russell Bailie, the owner and managing director, has always been supportive of Barista competitors and the first successes date back to 2004 when Sarah McCandless of Clements Café won the UK Barista Championship.

“At Bailies, we are incredibly lucky to have not one, but two such talents amongst our team at present. The time and dedication Sarah and Stephen put into these competitions emulates their passion for coffee which is the key factor behind their successes over the last year. It will also be fantastic to see locally roasted coffee on the world stage in Melbourne where Sarah has the opportunity to be crowned World Barista Champion.”

Sarah credits the company’s passion for great coffee and attention to detail for the wins at the SCA Irish Barista Championships held in Dublin recently.

“I am delighted and honoured to have been named Irish Barista Champion 2020,” she said. “Bailies Coffee Roasters share my dedication to the perfect coffee. That ethos has fully supported my hard work and preparation for this competition. I can’t wait to take my coffee to the World Championship in Australia later in the year.”

To win these prestigious titles requires more than just popping the kettle on and cracking open a jar of instant.

Experts, like qualified Specialty Coffee Association of Europe Trainer Sarah, have elevated coffee making to an art form.

The SCA competition required entrants to make three beverages in an allocated amount of time in front of several judges. Competitors must also talk through their coffee, why they chose it, and relevant information about the coffee while preparing their drinks.

In each round, competitors present a 15-minute routine in which they must prepare and serve a total of 12 drinks. Four espressos, four milk beverages, and four signature beverages.

The four judges award points on a variety of factors including the taste and balance of the barista’s beverages as well as their presentation. A technical judge grades their technique and cleanliness in the national championships. The judges’ points are totalled to produce a final score for each barista.

Stephen Houston has been Bailies’ head roaster for five years. He is no stranger to coffee competitions having competed in the SCA Irish Brewers Cup Championships in 2017 and 2019, winning both titles and at the time of writing is the current recipient. Stephen is also part of the advisory council for the Coffee Roasters Guild which is comprised of industry leading experts from around the globe.

On being named Irish Brewers Cup & Irish Aeropress Champion 2019, Stephen said: “My core role at Bailies is roasting and quality control. That attention to detail and desire for innovation drives industry progression. It’s gratifying to be recognised for the hard work the team put in every day. Ultimately, we are driven by our sense of responsibility to the coffee farmers and our passion for ensuring pleasurable coffee experiences and satisfied customers.”

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