Friday, November 14, 2008

Nicaragua: Campeonato Baristas 2008

The show gets underway.

It's the start of the barista championships here in Nicaragua and things are Situation: Normal.

Barista competitions typically have three stations with an espresso machine each. Today, we've got three stations and two La Marzocco Linea 2EE espresso machines. Where's the third one you ask? On the way, they tell us. Start time is supposed to be 10am and by 11:15am things are just starting to stir. Oh look, and here comes the third Linea!

By 11:35am the competition is off an running which, by all accounts, is relatively "on time." Both the Philippines and Hawaii have a flexible sense of time but Nicaragua gives flex time new meaning. You're just not socially adjusted if you're half an hour late. At 10am the first two competitors hadn't even arrived yet. It's gonna happen in Managua. It's just not going to happen in a New York Minute. Those obsessed with staying "on time" should stay at home.

Today there are eleven competitors and thirteen judges to fill two judging teams.

Wait a minute, you might say. Did he say "thirteen judges to fill two judging teams?"

Those of you familiar with the WBC style of barista competitions may have noted that it takes seven people to create a judging team (two technical, four sensory and a head judge). With our competition host busy in the first half of the day with official duties we're short one judge and I jump in to cover as a technical judge on both teams for most of the day.

Just judging at the normal pace can be stressful. Doing them back to back, with no rest in-between is a whole new challenge. At one point early on, I almost marked a competitor for something I had noticed on the flight before. But once I got into the groove, it just started to flow.

Overall, I thought the flow of the competition went by pretty quickly. Maybe it's because I was working constantly and didn't have time to notice anything else but before I knew it, I was moved into a sensory judge slot in one team for the final four competitors.

Dancing after competition.

The competitors themselves were young and inexperienced. They're a reflection of the age of the competition and I know this is how the USBC must have been like early on. Lots of whipped cream. Lots of ice cream. Lots of stemmed glassware. Lots of big drinks. Lots of sugary sweetness and commercial syrups. One competitor even busted out whipped cream in a can.

I'm guessing that many of the seasoned competitors might groan about this but even I can remember seeing lots of the same when I started competing in 2004. These competitors are just getting their sea legs and it's gonna take them a little while to catch up, but if Mexico is any indication, it won't be too long before Nicaragua produces a formidable champion to the WBC.

The competition continues tomorrow with the Finals on Sunday. You can watch all the action on the Live Videostream
from Managua.

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