ThaRiddla Senior Member Joined: 27 May 2003 Posts: 181 Location: Chicago Expertise: Professional
Espresso: LM GS/3 Grinder: Mazzer Mini
Posted Tue Aug 1, 2006, 11:33am Subject: Re: The Controversial WBC, Road Reports
Nice article, Mark.
I do think that there are things to be worked on with the USBC/WBC and hopefully some of those changes are already in progress. I'm hopeful for a constant evolution of standards, rules and competition. That being said, it was an amazing experience for me and I hope that it will always be that way for everyone involved.
As for the afterparty...did you end up at Cuba? That's where the party really began. :)
MarkPrince Moderator Joined: 19 Dec 2001 Posts: 5,618 Location: Vancouver, BC Expertise: Professional
Espresso: KvdW Speedster Grinder: Versalab M3 Grinder Vac Pot: A bit too many Drip: Bonavita Roaster: Hario Glass Retro Roaster
Posted Tue Aug 1, 2006, 6:35pm Subject: Re: The Controversial WBC, Road Reports
One thing I was hoping for with this article is that I could engage some discussion with others who were at the WBC, involved with it. I know many others had issues with various things going on; on the other hand, there's probably more than a few who read this and thought, 'there goes that geek guy again, off on a rant.: :)
I assume many regulars in the forums couldn't care less about this kinda stuff, but there's some really important reasons why you should. Things like the WBC have the potential to do more for the advancement and appreciation of espresso than almost anything else out there.
I said "potential". But it's nowhere near that place yet. I've long argued that barista competitions need to get back to their roots - that is, a celebration of the appreciation and understanding of quality espresso, and the people who craft it. In doing this, the public needs to be involved. Right now, comps are basically all about preaching to the converted - I feel there's very little attempts to really mass market this and make it appeal to the average joe coffee liker.
But as people who have an appreciation for good coffee and espresso, you should be making your voice heard as well to the powers that be within the WBC, the USBC, the CNBC, and other barista competitions. You should be telling them what you believe, as a consumer, would make the competitions more appealing to the public. You should also have no fear of voicing your opinions on the politics or the "controversies".
The problem with these competitions and the bodies that run them is that there are some people who are involved for the wrong reasons. I'm not saying they are bad reasons, but they are the wrong ones. That said, those wrong reasons? Guess what - these reasons can have a silver lining - because those wrong reasons are politics, padding the resume, having something to put on their consulting web page, you name it... and it's good because if you, as the public, as the coffee consumer, as the starting out entrepreneur in the biz of coffee - if you express "this is BS - these political games are goofy", or if you say "you know what, the competitions need to change, because they are not friendly to the consumer" or if you just say that you, as an observer think there's flaws, those who want WBC or USBC association to be a good thing for their career will take note of that, and understand that, if they continue to play a role in not evolving the competitions, or not having better altruistic reasons for being involved, it will be bad for their rep, not good.
The thing is, there's very little public feedback about competitions. Very little. It's like a catch-22 though - the comps don't appeal much to the general public, so the public doesn't care to comment. But if you, as a consumer or someone just getting into the business about coffee starts to make comments, maybe the powers that be will sit up and listen.
Anyways, on another rant here... what I really wanted to do with this post was bring up a few topics not covered in the article, since there isn't much feedback. There was a lot more I wanted to include, but omitted because the article was long. All of these pertain to the WBC, but imo, should also filter down to national competitions. In bullet point:
Make it mandatory for judges to be available for debriefs - some of the judges, even some of the finalist judges weren't around for this (though to fair to Fritz and Justin, they had an extremely valid reason; but others were missing). If a judge doesn't stick around for the all-important debrief with competitors, I believe they should lose their credentials as a WBC judge. Just another thing to make them accountable to the competitors.
Scoring should be transparent and immediate. Andrew Barnett's a big fan of this but got the idea from the dude who founded barista comps (Alf!) This way, if you see one judge scoring 2s when the others are scoring 5s, you know what's going on.
Judges should be sitting down, the Barista should be facing the audience when serving. Gives more emphasis on the stars of the show, and less so on the wannabe stars (lol).
Right now, the WBC board is more or less appointed positions. It's also closed to the SCAE and SCAA only (yes, I'm painfully aware it's owned by both). As stated by others in other media, a system should be set up where more national specialty coffee bodies are more involved, and board positions are elected, save two (next point); if you look at the current board, and know all the parties involved, you may find a few who really don't have a lot of interest in espresso or the art of the barista. We need to get people running this board who are in it for the right reasons, not just because they like being on a board.
The WBC board president should be voted on by the board, and there should be an automatic, voting seat held for the previous year's WBC champion, once his or her 1 year run is over. Gives a voice of the baristas to the board.
The WBC really, really needs to look at making the competitions more spectator friendly. As Tim Wendelboe said in his article on this website, there's already a waning interest in several countries, including where the whole shebang started. I saw it myself this year in the western Canadian regionals... several potential cafe-entrants didn't enter because of reasons like "it doesn't match the experience in our cafe" or "it's not audience friendly"
If people keep stating "it's owned by...." as a reason for various things that should be fixed, it will come back to bite the WBC on the ass. Already, there's various movements in several countries to just pass by the WBC... much like how the Q has been passed on by many people in the biz, because it seemed to be mismanaged by it's owning body. The WBC wants to be the world leader in the art of the barista? Then open it up fully to the world, including letting specialty coffee bodies in various parts of the world have a real say and voice in what goes on.
Lastly, the WBC very poorly manages its resources. That being the star, national champion baristas. They should be more involved in the WBC, from rules planning to promotion, to fund raising, to marketing. As far as I know, there's very little effort done to capitalize on this resource, and show a true appreciation for the art of the barista, and a path towards educating the public about better coffee.
I know from first hand conversations that there are those within the SCAA who see the WBC as a "crown jewel". It's been stated publicly at conference and at the fall meetings. Great to have an iron grip on it, but I tell you what - it needs to evolve and improve very soon, or that jewel will turn into coal, and I predict another more exciting, televisable, spectator friendly and fun event will supersede it.
If You wanna reach the masses, let the next Latte Art Championship happen right in the middle of the 5th Avenue. Maybe some of the crowd even realize that there's a good espresso in that cappuccino they just drink...
emily Senior Member Joined: 2 Mar 2006 Posts: 157 Location: Sydney, Australia Expertise: Professional
Espresso: i share with everyone
Posted Wed Aug 2, 2006, 4:16am Subject: Re: The Controversial WBC, Road Reports
Thanks for the report, especially as I had to miss this WBC for baby reasons :-)
For the record, in 2004 the Australian Barista Championship developed a computer based scoring system whereby each judge and each single point they gave was entered into a programme designed to (a) add up without any problems or miscalculations (b) look for obvious discrepancies between judges and (c) give an objective analysis of each judge and their performance in comparison to all the other judges in their flight. It was a great system, and was actually also used in Trieste in 2004. The result was a 'fairness' ranking of the consistency and performance of the judges, based on analytical data from the scores they gave and how close or far they were to the mean of the other judges. They were ranked on the % difference. If someone was way out with a score, we could go back and check the sheets, check that we put the right numbers in the computer, or check if there was something fishy with the judges feedback.
It worked really well as an objective analysis of the current system.
Just thought I'd ad that comment to what you wrote about as I agree strongly with the accountablitly of the judges needing to be higher.
Here's to Mother Russia, and to your retirement. See you soon!!
Posted Wed Aug 2, 2006, 9:07am Subject: Re: The Controversial WBC, Road Reports
Excellent and balanced report! But I think you went too easy on accepting a head judge (or any judge!) who is a paid consultant to competitors. It doesn't matter at all how fair that judge may be in actuality, the appearance of bias is all that's necessary to ruin the competition.
On a second point, regarding a follow up comment you posted, I certainly accept your premise that "barista competitions need to get back to their roots - that is, a celebration of the appreciation and understanding of quality espresso, and the people who craft it." I watched some of the preliminary rounds of the regional barista competition in Washington, DC, earlier this year, and while it was mildly entertaining, vast improvements are possible. In addition to your suggestions (all of which are excellent), I would add one more: the judges should provide a public debriefing, in panel form, to the audience. Upwards of 90% of the things that the baristas are being judged on are imperceptible to 90% of the audience, and some of those things (e.g., taste of the drinks) are imperceptible to 100% of the audience. Without a public debriefing, we are missing a huge opportunity to expand "the appreciation and understanding of quality espresso".
BGN Senior Member Joined: 4 Oct 2005 Posts: 191 Location: Vancouver, B.C. Canada. Expertise: I love coffee
Espresso: Cimbali ML20 Lever Grinder: Mazzer Major E Vac Pot: none Drip: Hario v60 Roaster: Behmor
Posted Wed Aug 2, 2006, 9:25am Subject: Re: The Controversial WBC, Road Reports
I've never been to a barista competition, but I know the difference between a barista who cares about and works hard at building a good drink and who is just a coffee shop employee. Just this week I took 2 friends to a local coffee shop and the coffee was so extraordinarily good (from a 2 grp Synesso with local roaster) that they bought second rounds and are still talking about it 3 days later. "Hats off" and "cheers" to baristas and barista tools that really make for a unique coffee experience! Barry.
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