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What's Wrong with the WBC, Professionally Speaking
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espresso_quest
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Posted Mon Jun 16, 2008, 12:00am
Subject: What's Wrong with the WBC, Professionally Speaking
 

What's Wrong with the WBC
Professionally Speaking article by Instaurator

A former Executive Director of the World Barista Champiionship speaks out about problems with the WBC and how it is organized and run and offers some discussion on possible solutions.
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iEmil
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Posted Tue Jun 17, 2008, 7:23am
Subject: Re: What's Wrong with the WBC, Professionally Speaking
 

Interesting reading !!

 
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DavecUK
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Posted Tue Jun 17, 2008, 5:11pm
Subject: Re: What's Wrong with the WBC, Professionally Speaking
 

***Warning***
The following post may contain personal views and opinions that could offend...if you are easily offended by views that may not place the WBC in a worshipful position, then please read no further. Furthermore, these opinions are made in the spirit of open discussion in a forum and I claim no specialist knowledge of the WBC and could indeed be BIOOMA  

It was an interesting article, I guess in coffee activities like the WBC there are a number of interests/people involved:

  • Commercial and Business Interests (roasters, suppliers, coffee shop owners, growers, wholesalers etc..)
  • The Baristas? Competitors
  • Advertisers, Sponsors
  • The People involved in the WBC.

As a consumer, I find the whole WBC thing relatively uninteresting and irrelevant to my own enjoyment of coffee and to be honest, coffee in the real world environment...Costa, Starbucks and other multi million pound organisations. Personally, not involved in the coffee business and not a Barista (or wanna be Barista), I would find being in the audience of one of these things about as interesting as watching paint dry after the first 10 minutes or so.

The Mission statement quoted is interesting

To promote the growth, excellence & recognition in the Barista profession.

Qualifications that are internationally recognised that result in real world benefits to Baristas (pay etc..) would do this quite effectively. This could be done by an examining body and allow Baristas to follow a standard internationally recognised training accreditation scheme. Simply because they can't all win competitions can they?

To grow the Barista's knowledge of and expertise in, the preparation and serving of specialty, espresso coffee through competitions.

Trouble is the competition bears little resemblance to the real world situations most Baristas will find themselves in. The knowledge that's growing appears to be, how best to compete in WBC competitions. If I was in a coffee shop and some guy pranced up with crystal tableware, linen napkins a flower stem in a vase and some funny looking drinks on a stylish tray...I might think he wanted sexual relations with me, if it was a girl, although I would be pretty sure sex wouldn't be the motivation, I would be confused as to what is.

And...Ive never seen machines in a coffee bar, treated the same way as the WBC ones, but perhaps I should get out more.

To promote the knowledge and consumption of specialty coffee to the consumer through the Barista.

So how does the busy Barista do this then, to think that this is the route to inform the consumer and promote speciality coffee is laughable. It's the same sort of coporate double talk I used to hear every day before I retired. I think it's fair to say that the activities of the WBC don't rank very highly on the radar (if at all) of most coffee drinkers and it's a pretty safe bet that it's invisible to those who don't drink coffee.

The average conversation with a person who makes coffee (possibly a trained Barista) is "what do you want then"...or even worse, you speak to someone at a till and a "Barista" with his back to you, grabs a ticket, prepares a drink, sticks it on a counter and stuffs a bit of paper on a pin. You shuffle up and grab it, hoping it's your drink. This is the average persons experience with the "Barista"

To become globally recognised as the premier World Barista Event in the coffee calendar.

By who and why...how does this help me or anyone else?

Now I'm not having a dig at anyone, I think the Baristas do an excellent job in competition, lord knows I would not want to compete, or even be a Barista in a busy coffee bar....but the WBC, what does it mean for me, an ordinary consumer...not much really. What does it achieve....I'm not really sure and I'm not sure I care.

Whose fault is it that I have these views.....well it's not mine, I'm just a consumer!
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MarkPrince
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Posted Wed Jun 18, 2008, 2:32am
Subject: Re: What's Wrong with the WBC, Professionally Speaking
 

That's some good commentary. I have a few responses:

DavecUK Said:

Qualifications that are internationally recognised that result in real world benefits to Baristas (pay etc..) would do this quite effectively. This could be done by an examining body and allow Baristas to follow a standard internationally recognised training accreditation scheme. Simply because they can't all win competitions can they?

Posted June 17, 2008 link

I'm not sure if I follow you here. I'm not entirely on board with the idea that the WBC on down helps promote growth, excellence and recognition (especially that last part) as much as it should, but the bottom line for me at least is, it does help somewhat in these regards. I actually think Barista Jams do more to help this than the comps do, because of the current structure.

But while I agree in spirit with what you're proposing, do you realise the cost of such an undertaking? Set up a training accreditation scheme is one thing. Actually run and administer it is quite another. Who's going to pay? Who's going to pay this cost which, in my mind, will cost 100s of percent more than the current WBC structure does.


Trouble is the competition bears little resemblance to the real world situations most Baristas will find themselves in. The knowledge that's growing appears to be, how best to compete in WBC competitions. If I was in a coffee shop and some guy pranced up with crystal tableware, linen napkins a flower stem in a vase and some funny looking drinks on a stylish tray...I might think he wanted sexual relations with me, if it was a girl, although I would be pretty sure sex wouldn't be the motivation, I would be confused as to what is.

And...Ive never seen machines in a coffee bar, treated the same way as the WBC ones, but perhaps I should get out more.

You do need to get  out more :D :D. I've been in many cafes where the machine are treated exactly the same, if not better than the machines at the WBC. I assume you're talking about cleanliness and preparation of the machine? Just as one example, go to 49th Parallel's cafe in Vancouver, and you'll be hard pressed to find a stray speck of coffee grounds, or a dirty portafilter, or a wand with any trace of milk, or a coffee stain on the backsplash or drip tray.

I'm not saying that this is the norm. It's not. But just as there's fine dining experiences where they do the little things like set up new cutlery for you for every course, and the server folds your napkin for you if you happen to get up and go to the bathroom, there are cafes out there who take extreme pride in their service and equipment.

This is just one aspect that, AFAIK, started with the WBC in Monaco and prior events, that filtered down to the cafe level.

Other things off the top of my head - water served with espresso; saucers and spoons automatic; telling you, the customer, about the coffee and its origin. These are some things that both filtered up to the WBC (etc etc) and back down to the front lines.

These are good things, IMO. And the competition enforces them. Is the WBC 15 minutes just like the cafe experience? Hell no. Should the cafe experience be just like a WBC round? Hell no. But there's things to learn - both from the front lines (and replicated in a 15 minute WBC round) and from the WBC back down to the cafe.

DavecUK Said:

So how does the busy Barista do this then, to think that this is the route to inform the consumer and promote speciality coffee is laughable. It's the same sort of coporate double talk I used to hear every day before I retired. I think it's fair to say that the activities of the WBC don't rank very highly on the radar (if at all) of most coffee drinkers and it's a pretty safe bet that it's invisible to those who don't drink coffee.

The average conversation with a person who makes coffee (possibly a trained Barista) is "what do you want then"...or even worse, you speak to someone at a till and a "Barista" with his back to you, grabs a ticket, prepares a drink, sticks it on a counter and stuffs a bit of paper on a pin. You shuffle up and grab it, hoping it's your drink. This is the average persons experience with the "Barista"

Posted June 17, 2008 link

My biggest problem with the WBC, the USBC and other national competitions remains this mission statement thing you quoted: to promote the knowledge and consumption of specialty coffee to the consumer through the barista (btw, the wording on that statement has changed recently). I just don't see this. For the last two years now, the USBC has been closed to the general public. A bad mistake that I'm told will not happen again. But even if it were open, the average consumer will fall over asleep with boredom in 30 minutes because, after discovering 10 minutes in they can't actually taste any of the drinks, the rest becomes mind numbing boring.

These comps preach to the converted. In my opinion, there needs to be some major structural and philosophy changes with the WBC / USBC etc. The idea of an "exhibition' needs to enter the psyche of the organizers strike that - owners of the WBC (that would be mostly the SCAA these days). The idea of having hands on things with consumers, about getting consumers in the community where the events are held excited about having an epiphany moment with coffee, about having consumers interact with these competing baristas as much as possible, and (gasp), actually entertaining consumers needs to happen. I know when I go to jams and such where consumers can attend, the enthusiasm of the baristas just diggin' on the coffee is often enough to get barely enlightened consumers all riled up, and turn them into coffee evangelists.

That's what the WBC needs to do (and when I say WBC, I mean national and regional comps as well) if they want to meet that mission statement.

Mark

 
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May
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Posted Wed Jun 18, 2008, 7:04pm
Subject: Re: What's Wrong with the WBC, Professionally Speaking
 

Some very interesting reading.

 
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IMAWriter
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Posted Thu Jun 19, 2008, 7:54pm
Subject: Re: What's Wrong with the WBC, Professionally Speaking
 

mark, as you mentioned, Dave brings up some valid points. I do agree with your reply that there CAN BE interaction with your friendly home town barista...IF...you show interest. While in Lubbock, TX, I went to a cafe, Sugar browns recommended by our own Jasonian. I said "hey" to the barista, mentioned I was really into espresso, he quickly described the roast he was pulling that dsay. I mentioned I like a short double. he said..."restretto?"
I said yep....Bingo.
Even IF the drink would have been just average (it wasn't, it was excellent) the interaction made my experience that much nicer. Sure, ultra busy shps may not have a lot of time for chit chat, but sometimes I bet they enjoy knowing folks in line have an appreciation, an interest in what they're about to order.
Back on Topic, lets call it like it is. The WBC appears to be geared towards "Idol" like competitions between Cafe's and their barista representative. The economic impact is obvious. The consumer has no place. Thankfully, we have CG/HB and a few other havens which for the most part were established as an information and entertainment outpost for folks like me.
And I'm damn well satisfied.

 
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KanChan
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Posted Sat Jun 21, 2008, 10:30am
Subject: Re: What's Wrong with the WBC, Professionally Speaking
 

I'm from Malaysia and never really had a chance to attend any WBC type of competition.

There were a recent Asia Barista Championship held in Singapore as part of the FHM2008 event. Carl Sara won it. Scottie Callaghan was 1st Runner-up.

About the consumer feeling bored, how true. One of the reason mentioned was the realisation that we will never had any chance of tasting any of those drinks made by all those top contestants.

People mentioned how great is a great espresso. But the average consumer only experienced crap espresso. In Malaysia ... most people think "What kind of crazy people pay so much for such a small terrible drink". How can we blame them. Carl and Scottie certainly did not have a booth there to introduce anyone to great espresso.

I was wondering, in the actual WBC, does any of these top contestants actually pull some great shots for the average "uneducated" consumer to try? Does any consumer gets a chance to try an espresso experience of a lifetime?

My best experience http://kfchan.wordpress.com/2007/08/31/fhm2007/ was certainly the best I encountered and it was merely a Food and Hospitality Exhibition. I still look forward to the day of tasting a shot made by any of these top contestants and see if they really are great.
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MarshallF
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Posted Sat Jun 21, 2008, 7:35pm
Subject: Re: What's Wrong with the WBC, Professionally Speaking
 

IMAWriter Said:

While in Lubbock, TX, I went to a cafe, Sugar browns recommended by our own Jasonian. I said "hey" to the barista, mentioned I was really into espresso, he quickly described the roast he was pulling that dsay. I mentioned I like a short double. he said..."restretto?"
I said yep....Bingo.
Even IF the drink would have been just average (it wasn't, it was excellent) the interaction made my experience that much nicer.

Posted June 19, 2008 link

Apropos of the thread I started in Espresso:General yesterday, what would the chances have been of finding passable, much less excellent, espresso in Lubbock five years ago?

It is difficult to measure the impact of any particular public relations effort on the market. But, we have had television, newspaper and internet coverage of barista competitions for several years now, along with a lot of other espresso coverage. I think the competitions have gone into the mix of news that has created a public demand for excellent espresso and shops willing to deliver it.

Regarding the ability to taste the competition shots, the U.S. Barista Guild and some of the roasters supporting competitors have served competition espressos at their booths at several of the SCAA Conferences. For an entirely different approach, Sherri and Danny Johns have been presenting a less formal "Ultimate Barista Competition" at food shows for a couple of years that includes audience tasting of the coffee. It seems to go over well.
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IMAWriter
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Posted Sat Jun 21, 2008, 8:29pm
Subject: Re: What's Wrong with the WBC, Professionally Speaking
 

MarshallF Said:

Apropos of the thread I started in Espresso:General yesterday, what would the chances have been of finding passable, much less excellent, espresso in Lubbock five years ago?

[snipped..with apologies...LOL]

Posted June 21, 2008 link

Yes, who would have thought?
(OT) Marshall...would you please PM me the link to your thread?
If these contests DO further expansion of great coffee to the gen public, then "let the games begin."
Folks like Kyle Glanville are excellent ambassadors.

 
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nobbi4711
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Posted Sun Jun 22, 2008, 4:01am
Subject: Re: What's Wrong with the WBC, Professionally Speaking
 

KanChan Said:

...Carl and Scottie certainly did not have a booth there to introduce anyone to great espresso....

....I was wondering, in the actual WBC, does any of these top contestants actually pull some great shots for the average "uneducated" consumer to try? Does any consumer gets a chance to try an espresso experience of a lifetime?....

Posted June 21, 2008 link

EXTREMELY GOOD POINT!!!!

We "Old Europeans" are always told that you American guys are the "showmen" ;-) So why isn't the WBC a show? F.... the hell who becomes the champion, as it's 50% by accident -> the brew temperature can't be influenced by the barista which is a big shame IMO. Having worked on a lot of machines and also several double boilers (DC, VFA, Marzocco) I absolutely disagree with the author's blog being machines like ECM Veneziano the best ever built.  But back to topic: Make a big show of it. Let other top baristas make drinks a lot for the public while the competitors do their job. Let the people try the best espresso/cappa/latte they ever had. And do the whole thing in the middle of NY City or elsewhere. Lots of Latte Art, good music and perfect coffee... I guess one such event would reach more people than 10 WBC's like the actual one.

Greetings \\//

Marcus
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