Gallery: Alex gets creative as he brews up artistic coffee creations
The brewing knowledge and artistic talent of a Norwich coffee barista have seen him finish fifth in the national finals of the UK Barista Championships (UKBC).
Alex Sargeant, co-owner of Strangers Coffee House, in Pottergate, made it to the London finals for the third successive year.
Mr Sargeant, 31, competed in the championships at the London Coffee Festival. All 14 finalists had six minutes to make four identical lattes, with the judges scoring the appearance, alongside technical skill and flavour.
The self-taught barista first entered the UKBC in 2012, but this year decided to enter the latte art discipline after deciding he wouldn't have enough time to prepare for the more established barista championships.
'Although I didn't feel that I had enough time to prepare for the UK Barista Championships, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to compete in the latte art section, which has helped increase the standard of my coffee overall,' he explained. 'My coffee tasted good before, but now it looks good too – it's the whole package. The art is the flair, the garnish. It's like any food and drink, the first taste is with your eyes.'
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The former mortgage broker decided to set up a coffee shop in 2009 after he lost his job and he has never looked back.
'I wanted to be the best I could be; by fortune I became a barista, and after that began aiming for the championships.
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'I knew it was going to be big and it's coming – there's been a 35pc increase in specialist coffee in the last five years.'
Dave Hart, a former research scientist at the Institute of Food Research and judge in last year's competition, said: 'He textures milk like no one else I know. It's a complex chemistry making the milk the right consistency. You have to balance the proteins and the fats.'