Bailies Coffee experts scoop prestigious awards accolades

Bailies Coffee award-winning staff Sarah Hannaway and Stephen Houston
Bailies Coffee award-winning staff Sarah Hannaway and Stephen Houston Bailies Coffee award-winning staff Sarah Hannaway and Stephen Houston

CUPS of a different kind are being raised in celebration at Bailies Coffee Roasters as two of its expert coffee employees have scooped the top accolades from the Speciality Coffee Association (SCA).

Sarah Hannaway was crowned Irish Barista Champion while Bailies head roaster Stephen Houston was named Irish Brewers Cup & Irish Aeropress Champion.

Founded in 1993 by Russell Bailie, the Belfast-based company ( has become one of the UK and Europe's leading speciality roasters supplying to trade, companies and the public.

From sourcing and import to roasting and brewing, Bailies follow their coffee from cherry to cup and are one of a handful of roasters dedicated to continuing direct trade with farming regions.

Jan Komarek, director and green bean coffee buyer, said: "From sensory skills and roasting competitions, the SCA coffee championships are notoriously difficult and time-consuming. But they are worth all the preparation as they promote some truly amazing talents.

“Our owner and managing director Russell Bailie has always been supportive of barista competitors and the first successes date back to 2004 when Sarah McCandless of Clements Café won the UK Championship.”

“At Bailies, we are incredibly lucky to have not one, but two such talents among our team. The time and dedication Sarah and Stephen put into these competitions emulates their passion for coffee which is the key factor behind their successes over the last year. It will also be fantastic to see locally roasted coffee on the world stage in Melbourne, where Sarah has the opportunity to be crowned World Barista Champion."

To win these prestigious titles requires more than just popping the kettle on and cracking open a jar of instant. Experts, like fully-qualified Specialty Coffee Association of Europe trainer Sarah, have elevated coffee-making to an art form.

The SCA competition required entrants to make three beverages in an allocated amount of time in front of several judges. Competitors must also talk through their coffee, why they chose it, and relevant information about the coffee while preparing their drinks.

In each round competitors present a 15-minute routine in which they must prepare and serve a total of 12 drinks. Four espressos, four milk beverages, and four ‘signature beverages’. These are four sensory each of the judges.

The four judges award points on a variety of factors including the taste and balance of the barista’s beverages as well as their presentation. A technical judge grades their technique and cleanliness in the national championships. The judges’ points are totaled to produce a final score for each barista.

Sarah said: "You are under pressure and you really need to know your stuff as the judges are industry experts. Thankfully, having been working as part of the Bailies Coffee Roasters team since 2017, I have received gold standard training.

"Our close-knit team is proud to be sourcing coffee from some of the world's best coffee producers, and building ethical, sustainable long term relationships with coffee farming communities committed to quality coffee production.

“For this competition, I selected a Honduran naturally-processed coffee from a female-led farm in San Jacinto that we at Bailies have a direct trade relationship with. So it is poignant to be celebrating the coffee in such a way as to win the championships with it."

Stephen Houston has been Bailies head roaster for five years. He is no stranger to coffee competitions having competed in the SCA Irish Brewers Cup Championships in 2017 and 2019, winning both titles and at the time of writing is the current recipient. Stephen is also part of the advisory council for the Coffee Roasters Guild which is comprised of industry leading experts from around the globe.

He said: “My core role at Bailies is roasting and quality control. That attention to detail and desire for innovation drives industry progression. It's gratifying to be recognised for the hard work the team put in every day. Ultimately, we are driven by our sense of responsibility to the coffee farmers and our passion for ensuring pleasurable coffee experiences and satisfied customers."