Gather & Gather crowns Barista of the Year 2019

Varun Udhin from Dublin has just been crowned Gather & Gather’s Barista of the Year 2019, in the group's annual coffee competition.

Having battled dozens of other professional baristas across the UK, the hotly contested finals saw the winners of eight regional heats compete at the world renowned Shard building in London.

Held to showcase the talent and expertise that fuels Gather & Gather’s cafes, the company’s top baristas from around the country fought it out in three roasting rounds.

The first round challenged the coffee connoisseurs to express their artistic side through the medium of latte art. Each entrant had to replicate two intricate coffee art designs of their choice, with entries judged for their likeness to the original.

The second round saw each finalist create their own signature alcoholic coffee drink to demonstrate their creativity alongside technical skills.

Udhin’s honeyed rum and coffee creation edged him forward in the tight competition, as the judges praised the balance of flavours and the warmth of the coffee in sharp contrast to the sweetness of the rum.

Finally, the competitors were challenged to demonstrate their coffee know-how, by using their sense of taste and smell to identify the odd one out across three seemingly identical cups of coffee in eight head-to-head heats. Presented with two premium cups and one basic blend of coffee, the contenders had to decipher which cup wasn’t up to scratch.

The specialist judging panel included Head Judge, Ashley Dawes, Sensory Judge, Cameron Lewis, and Technical Judge, Suzan Huijgen, all from artisanal coffee roasters Union Coffee. Dan Harvey completed the panel as Sensory Judge from La Marzocco, producers of the renowned espresso coffee machine.

Allister Richards, Managing Director, Gather & Gather, said, “We pride ourselves on supporting and developing the best baristas in the business and the Gather & Gather talent on display was truly exceptional.

'Congratulations to Varun, I was particularly impressed by the precision and creativity he bought to the competition. And thank you to all our finalists for a fantastic celebration of coffee.”

Udhin (pictured with his wife Zuzana, who's also a barista) said, “I am bursting with happiness today – last year I entered the competition and came second, but this year I managed to take home the trophy.

'I am proud to represent Gather & Gather Ireland and am looking forward to seeing the La Marzocco machines being made in Italy, but also to making even more progress as a barista with Gather & Gather.”

In addition to winning the prized title, Udhin also won a trip to visit La Marzocco’s factory in Florence to see where the iconic coffee machines are made. All the finalists received goodie bags including coffee-themed tools and treats from Gather & Gather partner’s Union Coffee, Brew Tea and Oatly.

The eight finalists were Marzina Glinieka (Scotland), Varun Udhin (Ireland), Charlie Needler (North-East England), Gavin Scouse (North-West England), Zak Osman (London), Matt Coddington (South-England), Noemi La Barbera (London) and Sarah Bunn (London).