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The Future of the World Barista Championship, Professionally Speaking
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SamuraiE
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Posted Wed May 10, 2006, 5:28pm
Subject: Re: The Future of the World Barista Championship, Professionally Speaking
 

Let me see if I got this straight:

Jay remembers enjoying Eddie Murphy in the 1988 classic movie 'Coming to America'. Seems that Eddie (Akeem) along with his sidekick, Semmi, had to dodge professional paintballers while pulling 'God Shots' at the Canadian National Stockcar races? Then King Jaffe Joffer stops by and catches them with 'inflatables' and illegal vanilla extract.....afterwards they all share a laugh and enjoy some coffee and a cigarette?.....or I could be wrong;-)

Speaking of movies..."If you build it, they will come!"

Why not build a permanent stage somewhere and have the comps at the same location every year. It could then become "The Event" and not just another attraction at the coffee show. The stage could be tailored for camera close-ups with stadium-type seating and interested crowds (who would get to taste the results at times during the event). The same machine, grinder (hardware) could then be used every year (what machine maker wouldn't want their product on display at the biggest barista event of the year?).  

Mic up the contestants and the judges....lets hear what's going on during the pressure of the event. Get mags and TV coverage.

Come on, Nationals in NYC every year...who wouldn't get pumped up for that?

 
Nowhere to go and feeling groovy!
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onocoffee
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Posted Wed May 10, 2006, 7:34pm
Subject: Re: The Future of the World Barista Championship, Professionally Speaking
 

Samurai San,

I eat at McDowell's, not McDonald's....



Ganbatte!!!!



.
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Enkerli
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Posted Thu May 11, 2006, 2:55am
Subject: Iron Barista
 

Jay's post contains several gems, including:

onocoffee Said:

This is a Barista Competition, and much like a Chef competition (such as Iron Chef), it's up to the barista to make wonderful creations with an assortment of ingredients.

Posted May 10, 2006 link

Well, yeah! Duuuh!

Actually, thinking of Iron Chef (never watched the show but heard about it) finally made it all click for me. What the barista comps are all about. How comps could improve exposure. How this could all be fun again. How this isn't about the One True Espresso. Why discussions of judging details seem so futile. What the SCAA has to do with the USBC. The extent to which comps could transcend some cultural differences while putting them "on display." Why regional comps make sense. And, obviously, the media/entertainment/glamour/rockstar aspects of it all.

Thanks!

 
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Philosopher
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Posted Wed May 2, 2007, 10:30pm
Subject: Re: The Future of the World Barista Championship, Professionally Speaking
 

FWIW here is my experience:

I attended my first ever Barista comp last week at the Australian Nationals in Adelaide last week.  Although I found the experience somewhat enjoyable, I wonder if it would be a type of event that I would consistently attend.

I am what you would call an amateur foodie with a limited budget.  I enjoy cooking, going out to different restaurants, trying new cuisines and tasting wines.  I am fascinated (though not necessarily experiment) with the range of products found in continental delis and the gourmet section of the supermarket.  I have had a espresso machine for 5 years but only recently upgraded to a Siliva/Rocky and only decided now to start investing in fresh locally roasted beans.

Here was my brief observations of the Australian Barista Championship 2007:

On the scale of things, I could not say that it was a very large event.  I only realised it was on because of a last minute ad in the paper.  It was held in the main function hall at the National Wine Centre (a nice venue commensurate with the atmosphere of good food and drink) and hosted by a local media personality.   As an aside the Centre was a government-sponsored project to showcase world-class Australian wines for which South Australia has been a signicant contributor.   I would have estimated maybe a couple of hundred people there at the most that day.  There were a handful of local and national sponsors but only one stall sitting in a lonely corner - alongside a makeshift espresso stand serving coffee to the public.  

A proportion of people attending seemed to be of the cafe culture (i.e. beautiful people) who I am not sure would know the difference between a arabica and robusta bean - and having a much more enjoyable time mingling with one another rather than watching the proceedings.  The other discernible group were the vocal family/friends of the competitors.  Apart from the range of judges, it was hard to tell who were the hard-core espresso addicts but I am sure some of them were around.

I arrived slightly late (since I could not actually find any information about the event by phone or internet the previous day).  After a short break following one competitor, I easily managed to get a front row seat.  The main reason I was there was to see if I could discern any new ideas or techniques that would aid my own efforts in making espresso.  

The competition itself seemed to me to be a combination of technical mastery, waitering skills and street performance.  The performances I enjoyed the most  was the Queensland female barista who managed to give the best running commentary I saw on how to make a espresso/cappuccino and the bopping WA barista pouring espressos to the beat of the music.  I was suprised by how elaborate the signature drink section was - much like making cocktails (without the alcohol).   Although some of them provided some interesting ideas to try at home, I was not so sure that I would have wanted to taste all of them.

It has been mentioned that a purported aim of the WBC is to assist in education and improving public understanding the world of coffee-appreciation.  During the proceedings, the (largely uniformed) host would interview the competitors briefly with what appeared to be a set of facile questions.  What did suprise me about the competitors was that very few of them could provide a concise explanation to fundamental concepts such as what drew them to coffee culture, how do the results of espresso differ from other brewing methods or what constituted a good espresso.  Some of the competitors obviously took great pains in developing a signature blend with their local roaster but again many could not give an precise explanation of what considerations were taken to develop its unique characteristics.  Why they chose this bean?  This roast level?  This proportion?  What qualities are appealing?  Which ones overwhelming?

Nevertheless, I thought this was a perfect opportunity to give the lay audience or budding home baristas (such as myself) some more useful insights into coffee appreciation.  Perhaps the cupping competion held afterwards (and which I missed) might have helped further in this regard.

I find any culinary competition a strange beast, whether it is a chef's olympiad, a wine-show or light-hearted TV entertainment.  The results and winners really don't have much meaning.  If one were to gauge who were the leading stars of the industry then it would exclude many 3 star Michelin chefs or world-class boutique wineries.   Other serious devotees do not necessarily need a competition to hone or refine their skills.  The only real interest value of these spectacles is to the largely uneducated public where these events will elevate their appreciation and understanding of the culinary arts.  

Unfortunately a barista competition contains a relatively small repertoire of technical skills (grind/tamp/pour/latte art) and ingredients (coffee bean) and itself does not make a good show.   Nobody would enjoy watching a cooking programme where the cook only julliened carrots before blanching them.   Similarly, no serious discussion about wine appreciation comes without comments about the grape origins and wine-production.   For the the proceedings to be either entertaining or informative then it also needs to be narrated with deep passion and understanding - think Jamie Oliver's cooking shows or the judge's commentary on Iron Chef.

The greatest challenge for barista competitions is to engage people in the wider consideration of coffee culture rather than just focusing on the technical aspects.   The entire process needs to be covered - including the art of roasting/blending - and finally relating all of these factors to the subjective qualities which are sought after in the final cup.
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MarkPrince
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Posted Wed May 2, 2007, 11:32pm
Subject: Re: The Future of the World Barista Championship, Professionally Speaking
 

Just saw the "pizza world championships" on FoodTV tonight.

It was very interesting, and in a way, more akin to Flair Bartending and Iron Chef than any Barista competition.

BUT... one thing that stood out for me - a side competition. A Guinness Book of World Records attempt to make the largest pizza pie dough base. Very cool stuff. Winning hand tossed base was 33 inches, and did indeed get a Guinness world record, including Guinness rep presenting the award. Winner got $10K from FoodTV.

Bingo.

The WBC on down should have a side event: The most espresso shots made (and maybe served to the audience) in 10 minutes. Call up Guiness. Get them involved. Get it set as a world record item, then do it. It'll bring upteen times more mainstream recognition than the current competition structure does, IMO. Get FoodTV involved. Get them awarding a $2,000, $5,000, $10,000 whatever check. Get bragging rights as a Guinness World Record holder.

From viewing that Pizza making world championship, it was clear the Guinness attempt was the main reason why the Food network got involved. Something's gotta happen to the WBC on down to get mainstream media not only interested, but participating. Otherwise, the "purported aim of the WBC is to assist in education and improving public understanding the world of coffee-appreciation." is just a pipe dream.

Mark

 
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pstam
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Posted Thu May 3, 2007, 12:21am
Subject: Re: The Future of the World Barista Championship, Professionally Speaking
 

Philosopher Said:

FWIW here is my experience:

......

Posted May 2, 2007 link



It is really a problem.

But, it was due to the unclear understanding of espresso.  The technical details should help to make good espresso.  If you ever tasted their espresso, it might be another thing.

The technical details cannot be seen at all.  You can only distinguish from tasting the resulted espresso, but you may not have that chance as I did.

 
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Philosopher
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Posted Thu May 3, 2007, 12:57am
Subject: Re: The Future of the World Barista Championship, Professionally Speaking
 

MarkPrince Said:

Just saw the "pizza world championships" on FoodTV tonight.

It was very interesting, and in a way, more akin to Flair Bartending and Iron Chef than any Barista competition.

BUT... one thing that stood out for me - a side competition.

The WBC on down should have a side event: The most espresso shots made (and maybe served to the audience) in 10 minutes.

Get bragging rights as a Guinness World Record holder.


Mark

Posted May 2, 2007 link

Mark,

Not sure if you are taking the mickey.  Perhaps it is a cultural thing but I don't think many Aussies would be attracted to the aforementioned pizza dough spinning competition.   On one hand you don't  have to resort to a crass gimmick that will detract from the art nor subject the audience to a virtuoso yet meaningless display of technical ability.

People can only be engaged if the background, technique and skills are explained to them.

Having travelled to the home of pizzas, I notice how different the original Italian version it compared to its usual counterpart in Australia.    In the pizza show, I would been more interested in the history and tradition of pizza making, different toppings and their origins and the changes in tastes over the years.  Perhaps a comparison between  the gourmet type outlets versus your commercial franchises - the ingredients used and the quality and philosophy behind each.
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MarkPrince
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Posted Thu May 3, 2007, 1:29am
Subject: Re: The Future of the World Barista Championship, Professionally Speaking
 

Philosopher Said:

Mark,

Not sure if you are taking the mickey.  Perhaps it is a cultural thing but I don't think many Aussies would be attracted to the aforementioned pizza dough spinning competition.   On one hand you don't  have to resort to a crass gimmick that will detract from the art nor subject the audience to a virtuoso yet meaningless display of technical ability.

People can only be engaged if the background, technique and skills are explained to them.

Having travelled to the home of pizzas, I notice how different the original Italian version it compared to its usual counterpart in Australia.    In the pizza show, I would been more interested in the history and tradition of pizza making, different toppings and their origins and the changes in tastes over the years.  Perhaps a comparison between  the gourmet type outlets versus your commercial franchises - the ingredients used and the quality and philosophy behind each.

Posted May 3, 2007 link

Not taking the mikey, nor am I promoting pizza dough spinning.

What I'm saying is, here's another obscure culinary competition (and I'm betting these pizza maestros take their art as seriously as any barista) that found a way to get national television exposure. The pizza part of the show was, I'll guess, as close to their pure want for culinary mastery as possible, but getting the crowd involved, having some wow factor (the chefs twirling the impossibly huge dough bases was pretty impressive) made it entertaining for those who may not otherwise understand what was going on.

And I brought it up saying that barista competitions need a similar break through thing to make them mass market-appeal. And I think doing something like most shots made in X minutes as a competition (maybe let the six finalists do it, after the competition is over) and getting Guinness involved, and handing out all the shots to the public, and all that huzzah might just be one of those things to make it break through.

It solves a lot of complaints people have about competitions: I'm talking average consumers, coffee fans, non-directly-involved people who sit in the stands and say things like "gee, I thought we would get to taste the coffee?". It puts on a show, gets feverish pitch going, and gets drinks into the hands of the audience.

It would be ideally suited to do between the end of the finals, and the announcement of the winners. You could open it up to the top six non finalists, have it "open entry", or the final six, if they aren't too exhausted from their finals performance, whatever - have past winners, judges, others involved.

A thing like that got the "pizza world championships" on FoodTV. It could get barista competitions on there too.

Mark

 
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Posted Fri May 11, 2007, 1:05am
Subject: Re: The Future of the World Barista Championship, Professionally Speaking
 

Having bean to a number of Australian barista comps (including Adelaide), there are usually only a few members of the public in the crowd.
The crowd is made up of competitors and their support crew, sponsors, industry members and 'coffee geeks'.
In its current format I do not think that 'Joe Public' would be very interested. The public would have difficulty understanding what is happening on the stage.
It is not an event where the public will learn how to improve their coffee making skills or in fact learn much about coffee.
The Adelaide competition would be the best event held in OZ todate. Its success was due to the efforts of a few local companies that worked tirelessly behind the scenes to put it all together.
Not sure how to get the public interested or involved, but thinking about it.
John
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Philosopher
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Posted Fri May 11, 2007, 4:55am
Subject: Re: The Future of the World Barista Championship, Professionally Speaking
 

pinot Said:

Having bean to a number of Australian barista comps (including Adelaide), there are usually only a few members of the public in the crowd.
The crowd is made up of competitors and their support crew, sponsors, industry members and 'coffee geeks'.
In its current format I do not think that 'Joe Public' would be very interested. The public would have difficulty understanding what is happening on the stage.
It is not an event where the public will learn how to improve their coffee making skills or in fact learn much about coffee.
The Adelaide competition would be the best event held in OZ todate. Its success was due to the efforts of a few local companies that worked tirelessly behind the scenes to put it all together.
Not sure how to get the public interested or involved, but thinking about it.
John

Posted May 11, 2007 link

Your observation raises a number of questions about what motivates people to be involved in this event:

What compelling reason would you give to the following interest groups to make participation worth their while that they could not achieve in other ways?

*Potential Competitors: Personal glory or satisfaction?  Improve cafe skills?
*Professional baristas: Career development, improve employability, higher wages?
*Wholesalers/Retailers: Increase sales?  Open up new markets? Commercial market? Domestic market?
*Sponsors: Advertisement opportunity? Raising the profile of their business?
*Home baristas: Learn something about coffee that they could not otherwise achieve at home?  Learn how to compete?
*Coffee connoisseurs: Get a new taste experience?

I am sure what you said about the relative success of the Adelaide competition is true.  But I was wondering if by limiting the general appeal, how much the competition translates to measurable benefits across the industry (as opposed to indulging the interests of only a select few)
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