A Successful World Brewers Cup

Barista

mikaela wallgren

The World Brewers Cup competition takes place in two rounds. During the first round, competitors prepare three beverages utilizing whole bean coffee provided by the competition. In the second round, the open service, competitors utilize a coffee of their choice and serve a beverage preparation with a presentation. Six finalists move on to a final round, repeating a presentation of the open service for the judging panel. Mikaela Wallgren competed in the World Brewers Cup Championship last June in Dublin, turning in an impressive second-place finish. Here, Wallgren reflects on her experience returning to Copenhagen’s Coffee Collective, where she works as a barista and HR coordinator.

After things wrapped up in Dublin, returning to the bar at the Coffee Collective was a really heart-warming experience. I was greeted by applause and cheering coworkers—everyone was so supportive of my presentation. They told me how much they respected the work I put in and how proud they were. They definitely made it feel like a very special homecoming.

Tying up my hair and securing my apron around my waist, I slid in to what, at that moment, felt like the tranquillity of everyday bar work. The months and weeks prior to the World Brewers Cup had consumed my thoughts every minute I was awake. All the build-up was released when I called “time” in the WBrC’s final round.

Returning to the bar a couple of days after, I felt light as a feather. Our coffee and my performance had exceeded any of our wildest hopes. I felt excited to continue the daily tasks in a coffee shop setting and to share our coffee’s world success, both with my team members and our customers.

The recipe, work flow, and my speech at WBrC centered around the topic of everyday passion, consistency, and knowledge of one’s tools. I used a red thread in the presentation, which represented finding strength in everyday workings. I used a coffee I knew and had brewed for three years—Kieni, from Mugaga society in Nyeri, Kenya. I brewed on a Kalita Wave, choosing this brew method because I’ve built a strong routine on it through everyday repetition. I also brought my water and my grinder, as I knew exactly how they would perform. In simple terms, I brought my everyday work setting to the world championships.

Mikaela Wallgren from Copenhagen's Coffee Collective competes at the 2016 World Brewers Cup Championships in Dublin.
(Photos: courtesy of Black Water Issue.)

What I brought back home after a successful competition was reassurance, pride, and confidence. I felt reassured of what I already felt to be true: the way we work on an everyday basis at the Coffee Collective is world-class. I was immensely proud the Kieni, a coffee so core to the Coffee Collective, had taken the world’s attention. I was confident, as I proved to myself that focusing hard in the bar on a daily basis can achieve great heights on the world stage. All you need to do is sign up for the competition and pin-point your personal strength, then repeat—over and over.

I definitely brought back home more intangibles from competing than practical skills. These intangibles are important things like industry connections and a stronger sense of professionalism.

I mostly learned practical skills on the road to the competition. While preparing, I had to figure out basics like how to organize and structure the training in an efficient and effective way. I also had to decide how to divide the performance into separate sections. This allowed me to train for each part with full focus. Along with these two things, I learned how to stay consistent, how to engage with my audience, and how to look confident and professional on stage.

If I can single out the most valuable lesson, I learned that I need a lot of repetition. Repetition gives me self-trust and peacefulness.

Today when I work in the bar I continue enjoying the tranquillity of repetition; welcoming guests, pulling shots, steaming milk, reloading the dishwasher. I really enjoy brewing drip coffee—it’s my biggest joy behind the bar. Together with our team I feel delighted to show our customers that world-class coffee is theirs to enjoy every day.

—Mikaela Wallgren is a barista and HR coordinator at Copenhagen’s Coffee Collective.