But when the sixth annual national barista competition was held from 11-13th of March in Iceland’s biggest mall, Smáralind, I did get a show. On top of that, with continuous samples from the competition, I got enough coffee to keep me buzzing through a weekend.
First, you need to understand the rules. 25 bariste get 15 minutes to make 12 perfect espresso, cappuccino, and freestyle coffee drinks. While getting the time shouted at them, the bariste also have to produce spotless cups, perfect froth, and immaculate machines… oh, and the judges also ask for a theme.
As the bariste toil at their task, two judges monitor their every move at the machines themselves, and the baristas have mics that they speak into to entertain the audiences.
The competition proved to be… brutal. Humiliating. I came to see fellow baristas shine, but many of them were put under so much pressure that it made me squeamish. The mic was used to apologize more than entertain—one barista, who will go unnamed, joked that his frothless cappuccino was “a trainwreck”. The judges didn’t laugh.
But amid the crashing and burning, there was glory. Especially for the coffee shops of Iceland: Kaffitár, Segafredo and Te & Kaffe.
For Kaffitar, we were treated to 2001 pumped through Smáralind, the barista raising her arm like a triumphant ice skater before whipping up her drinks. Segafredo was just as dramatic, though funnier, with a dedication to the Danish queen complete with accompanying photos. (Perhaps this wasn’t the best political gamble in… Iceland.)
But nobody was getting in the way of Jónina Tryggvadóttir of Te & Kaffe, this year’s champion. It was her cold, hard confidence that shook up the entire event. And her cappuccino change-up will be one for the record books.
In a move that staggered the onlookers, at least those of us left on day three of the competition, Jónína opened her coffee presentation with the CAPPUCCINO. Every other contestant opened with espresso, an easier drink.
Her logic, she told the judges coolly, “I start every day with a cappuccino.”
With that, and with a specialty drink named Femme Fidel, interpreted either as the loyal woman, or, perhaps, the emasculated Cuban leader, she had the judges eating out of her hands.
Nina Cohagen is a barista at Ömmukaffi.
Competing coffee shops’
Te & Kaffi, Laugavegur 24, 101 Reykjavík. 562-2322
Kaffitár, Bankastræti 8, 101 Reykjavík 511-4540
Segafredo, Lækjartorg 5, 101 Reykjavík 562-5200
Ari í Ögri, Ingólfsstræti 3, 551-9660
Bar 11, Laugavegur 11, 511-1180
Café 22, Laugavegur 22, 511-5522
Café List, Laugavegur 20a, 511-1420
Café Victor, Hafnarstræti 1-3, 561-9555
Dillon, Laugavegur 30, 511-2400
Dubliner, Hafnarstræti 4, 511-3233
Gaukur á Stöng, Tryggvagata 22,
Glaumbar, Tryggvagata 20, 552-6868
Grand Rokk, Smiðjustígur 6, 551-5522
Hressingarskálinn, Austurstræti 20, 561-2240
Hverfisbar, Hverfisgata 20, 511-6700
Jón Forseti, Aðalstræti 10, 551-0962
Kaffi Kúltur, Hverfisgötu 18, 530-9314
Kaffibarinn, Bergstaðastræti 1, 551-1588
Kaffibrennslan, Pósthússtræti 9,
Leikhúskjallarinn, Hverfisgata 19,
Nasa, by Austurvöllur, 511-1313
Nelly’s, Þingholtsstræti 2, 551-2477
Mojito, Austurstræti 16, 575-7905
Prikið, Bankastræti 12, 551-3366
Póstbarinn, Pósthússtræti 13, 562-7830
Rósenberg, Lækjargötu 2, 551-8008
Sirkus, Klapparstígur 30
Sólon, Bankastræti 7a, 562-3232
Thorvaldsen bar, Austurstræti 8,
Vegamót, Vegamótastígur 4, 511-3040