So... interesting flight to Charlotte, for sure. But I'm here, and it's zero minus two days to the SCAA show, and zero minus one to the USBC. And already a lot has happened, including my getting held up by a certain President Bush.
(okay, it's not as dramatic as all that. I ended up circling Charlotte in my plane for 45 mins while Charlotte's "airspace" was restricted, cuz Bush is in town to talk to a bunch of pre-selected college students).
First thing I notice when I get to Charlotte:
everyone is extremely friendly. Even the cab jockey at the airport. The hotel staff are awesome, all wearing "scaa" ribbons on their nametags. The restaurant staff were great. The building staff at the Charlotte Convention Centre - cheerful and polite, almost to a fault. Great city so far!
So I finally get into town at around noon, and take a cab to my hotel, where the staff rock. Then I walk the two blocks to the convention center. Uh oh, there's a Pizza Uno right on the way to the convention center. Danger. Danger.
But I don't succumb. I get there, have a quick chance to scope out the show floor (it's a mess, but will become magical soon), and head over to the Barista area. It's very professionally set up, lots of seating, lots of space for judges and competitors. But I find out some bad news too. Apparently, the competition is not open to the general public... except for the last (finals) day. That's not a good sign.
The machines used this year are sweeeet. La Marzocco GB/5 3 group... semi automatics. Amazing.
The grinder looks intriguing too - the Compak.
The judges room is next for me. Since I'm currently WBC certified, I only had to attend the last half day (today) for the comp. I get into the room, which is well organized and set up by Brent Fortune and others, and on top of the USBC info packet, there's a little scroll by everyone's packet... opening it up reveals something that once again shows how great it is to have Krups as a sponsor.
They are giving all accredited judges the Krups XP4050 automatic espresso machine. This is a match to the machine I'm currently reviewing - the XP4020, but in auto format. A very decent machine for its pricepoint. This is absolutely amazing for Krups to do - think about it. Except for maybe yours truly, how would you know that they did this? They didn't do it to get press. They did it as a genuine thank you for the hard work judges do. Krups rocks. They're also the premier sponsor of this year's Canadian Barista Championship, and I'm very excited to be working with them on it. We'll have some surprises too, I'm sure.
So the afternoon judges' training session was very well organized. Essentially, there were six stations set up, each station specializing in a "defect" or a "great shot" ability - qualified, competent baristas like Nick Cho, Phuong Tran, Joe Ryan, Bronwen Serna and others were handling the tough duties. All judges were broken up into groups, each with 30 minutes or so at a station. It was an excellent way to show defects, show great shots, and give new judges (and returning ones) a good understanding of things to pay attention to, and what to look for.
Now I'm pit stopping before I head out for an evening of fun, but until then, enjoy today's crop of flickr photos!