Dan scoops NI’s top barista award


So it’s official! Our very own Common Grounds manager, Dan Black, is Northern Ireland’s champion barista – scooping the top award at the first ever NI Barista Championships 2015. The competition was part of the NI Coffee Festival held in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter in September, and takes place all over the world.

That’s some achievement for the alternative, local community café that we are.

The championships are an opportunity for baristas to show off their skills – proving they know how to choose and make a flavourful espresso, produce a top quality milk drink and craft a creative signature beverage – all while under the pressure of performing in front of judges.

Have-a-go attitude. Why not?

“I didn’t go into the competition with any real objectives other than to try not to embarrass myself.” So why did our man Dan put himself through it – and end up walking away with the top prize – the first ever of its kind in NI?

“I’ve been in the trade for 10 years now, so I thought I’d give it a go and see how I compared to some other local baristas,” said Dan.

“I didn’t go into the competition with any real objectives other than to try not to embarrass myself and to hopefully manage to make it through to the final. So, when I made it into the last six – that was already a success story in my books!”

The run-up to the final showdown

“My hands were shaking when I was trying to pour a cappuccino.” 

“A big part of the competition was being able to perform and show the judges what you know,” said Dan.

“Thankfully, I’m fairly comfortable speaking in front of people – as long as I know what I’m talking about! That’s not to say I wasn’t nervous. My hands were shaking when I was trying to pour a cappuccino.

“The final went a lot better for me, having ironed out a few kinks from the initial round.

“I was very happy with the espressos and milk drinks I produced, which shouldn’t have been too much of an issue considering I’d already made about 300 drinks over the course of the weekend at the Common Grounds stall at the festival.”

Hotting up for the big moment

“I was really impressed with the other competitors involved,” said Dan.

“Everyone really seemed to have put in a lot of work in preparing and they all really knew their stuff. But I was a little disappointed to only see one woman involved, which is surprising as a lot of the best baristas I know are female.”

“When it came to announcing the winner, I was really surprised to be awarded first place!” said Dan.
“I was really surprised to be awarded first place!” 
“I’ve been doing this job for a long time now and take pride in being good at my role, and it’s great to have than confirmed.

“It’s also good for Common Grounds to be able to highlight that we do provide a really high quality coffee offering.”

So, what’s next for Dan? Well, he had hoped to compete in the Irish Barista Championship Semi-Finals in November, ahead of the World Championships in Dublin next year. However, the timing clashes with an even more important event – the birth of Dan’s first child.

Maybe next year!