Irishman clinches World barista title

COPENHAGEN Mon Jun 23, 2008 5:59am EDT

A barista makes espresso during training at a coffee shop in New York, February 26, 2008. REUTERS/Keith Bedford/Handout

A barista makes espresso during training at a coffee shop in New York, February 26, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Keith Bedford/Handout

COPENHAGEN (Reuters Life!) - After four days of coffee brewing, Irish barista Stephen Morrissey on Sunday won the ninth annual World Barista Championship, impressing judges by flambeing a drink of panna cotta, blueberries, chocolate and espresso.

Morrissey finished ahead of the national champions from Australia and the Netherlands in a competition to serve judges four perfect espressos, four foamy cappuccinos and four own-recipe signature drinks using espresso in 15 minutes.

"What came out in the espressos and cappuccinos was amazing and of extremely high quality", one of judges told Reuters of the winner's bid after the votes had been collected.

At barista tournaments, judges look for a thick elastic espresso, a cappuccino topped with high caliber foam texture and a unique coffee invention to please eyes and taste buds.

If baristas -- professionals highly skilled in coffee preparation -- can accomplish this, and they have the ability too take coffee experience even further, they have a chance to win.

"The judges want to be guided through the whole experience like a television chef would present it and really make the judges crave the drink," the 2007champion, James Hoffmann, told Reuters.

The decision came in a densely packed conference hall in Denmark's capital Copenhagen, where more than 1,000 spectators watched coffee art and cheered every-time a barista made a cappuccino foam heart or leaf pattern.

At the first edition of the competition in 2000 only 12 baristas competed and this year 52 countries participated, creating a Eurovision song contest-like atmosphere at the tournament.

Morrissey was the first Irish winner of the World's biggest special coffee making event.

Next year the grinder click noise and the coffee spray will sound in Atlanta in the United States.

(Reporting by Martin Burlund)