Saturday, September 12, 2009

Competition Class

Everyone wants a photo with Rouki.

Our workshops continue focusing on barista competitions and how a competitor can approach the competition. The first afternoon was spent mostly in lecture and watching video of world barista champion Gwilym Davies capture the crown for the third straight time for London's Square Mile Coffee and presentations about rules changes and the like. In essence, I just kinda hung out on the sidelines for the first afternoon.

With the next morning came something for me to do. We broke down into groups and started working with the attendees on presentation of espresso and cappuccino. What makes a zero? What makes a 5? What's in-between? We worked with examples of those and broke down the points for the attendees to see and understand.

Linda and Claudia. Too happy.

I mean really, if you've never thought about it nor seen it, how do you know that this espresso is a 2 and that espresso is a 4? We stressed on them that the standards we'll be teaching, and holding them to, are based on what we've seen throughout the world. So that when they receive a "3" - it's a "3" in terms of worldwide competitors.

One of the problems that the World Barista Championship faces is that it's not uncommon for a barista competitor to receive a "5" on an espresso in their home country that would barely make a "2" on the world level, creating an invisible disparity that makes it difficult for non-Western barista competitors to realize where they need to improve and become competitive.

Alfredo - Ready To Rock You.

Of course, that doesn't address or solve the problems of corruption within the WBC and the national organizations, but that's not our concern for this workshop. We're just here to show them the standard that would help them achieve the highest scores and a possible win, excluding any sort of score manipulation, favoritism or corruption of the system - which has not been limited to non-western nations.

Suddenly, a consensus starts to emerge. They start to see and agree that this espresso is a 2 because it's just kinda flat-looking. That cappuccino is barely a 1 because there's no definition between the foam and crema, not to mention the thin layer of foam that barely covers the liquid.

Los Jueces: Kelli, Johnny, Linda and Cedric.

Instead of taking the approach where I tell them what the results are, I let the attendees review the drinks and give scores. Some want to give zeros and others want to give fives when they're not warranted. Using a thought from other judges, I tell them that our goal as judges is not to penalize but to reward. We want to give them fives and sixes, but they must earn it. It's not our job to be harsh, just fair. So if you can give them a 1.5 instead of a 1.0, then give it to them. But if the crema has broken on the espresso, it's still a Zero.

Manggy prepares her setup.

Not long after, they're starting to get into a rhythm and the scores start falling within a narrow range. I take on the role of "head judge" - merely there to push and pull them in the right direction and keep them from straying too harsh or too optimistically.

After lunch, it's time to get into some mock competitions. Each attendee is offered the opportunity to perform and be judged by our panel of happy judges. Curiously, not everyone decides to perform, which I think is a mistake because now is the time to get critical without having to be penalized in the competition. Here, if you make a mistake, you can easily make the changes and be ready for the national competition in Bogota.

Carolina preps the judges table.

Earlier they watched the Colombian National Champion, Ever Bernal, do his thing, now it's their turn. While Rodrigo stood and did technicals, Rouki, Alirio and myself sat down for the sensory judging. In fact, we had a rotating sensory judge so that a number of the attendees could get a feel for sensory.

Surprisingly, a few of the attendees prepared full-blown routines. Manggy from Capristano and Leonardo both had full routines with signature drinks. Tre Cool. But the competitor who really commanded the stage was Cedric from Curacao's Cafe Barista. I've seen a lot of barista competitors from around the world and while many of them are great baristas, they're lacking in the engaging and entertaining department. Cedric is one of the very few baristas I've witnessed with a real talent for engaging and entertaining an audience.

Leonardo prepares.

Manggy in the distance.

As our last day came to a close, it was time to pass out certificates and say our goodbyes. Departures are such sweet sorrow but there will be more good times to come and I look forward to the day when I can return and find many of our participants on stage competing for the Colombian crown.

The official photographer, Diana T.

Adriana, right, works for Dunkin Donuts. Vas mas rapido!

El Jefe Alirio drops by for an inspection.

She's not in our class. But I don't mind...

No comments: