A Constructive Critique of Barista Championships

barista competitions, trade shows, jams, tastings

Postby Deferio on Thu Mar 01, 2007 6:34 pm

I agree with Lorrie.

We all know that espresso is not food. So to subject it to the logic a chef uses in preparing dishes is not a solid stance. Food may get cold if left for a while but espresso deals in seconds not minutes it's very volitile.
If the USBC is to be the ultimate forum for representing the craft of the barista (I don't think it is yet) then the USBC should openly address these issues and provide for the barista to represent their craft to the fullest and stop ignoring frivolous rules that obviously don't belong in an ESPRESSO based (not food based)competition.
my 2
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Postby zak on Thu Mar 01, 2007 8:33 pm

Ok so Saborio was close to the story. I'm the competitor that served separately to the judges. First I'd like to preface by stating that even before competing Zak and I (Josh Longsdorf) both of The Ugly Mug thought the idea of serving shots after sitting was ludicrous. It would never happen in our shop and if someone were to neglect the shot we would remake it and then educate them about letting their shots sit. This was also part of my explanation to the judges. We came up with an amazing blend for the GLRBC and when pulling shots on our synesso in shop they were amazing; crema, color, body...

As most of you know competitors have 45 minutes in the morning before competing. While on the machine we had a USBC head judge, who was not judging this specific event, hang out on the machine with us. After calibrating my grind I was getting shots that I was more than happy with. Of course I wasn't completely in my normal barista mindset and it was the judge that pointed out to me that the crema was more thin than most competitors. After throwing around a few ideas i decided I wanted to serve the espresso two by two. Obviously for multiple reason now. The judge who was with me said as long as I announce that I am serving them as so and with explanation, which I clearly had being I would never serve them that way anyways, that I could only lose the one point.

After we received our scoring sheets I further questioned Spence Turor, a head judge of GLRBC, and he confirmed that he instructed the judges that I could only lose the one point because I announced that I was serving this way. I would also like to say that this action received great applause by many competitors in the back as well as other members of our community throughout the weekend. On the trip home Zak and I discussed it and decided we would have anyone from our shop in the future that might compete serve that way for reasons stated, obviously if rules change our stance may change.

As to our espresso blend, we are still baffled as to why the crema was performing the way it was. We have re-blended it this week and also pulled shots of some of what was left and in shop it was nearly all crema that does not break. In relations to my score I only lost one point for serving this way, or as far as I know that is. I also received a complement on professionalism from one of my sensory judges for serving this way.

Last I would like thank everyone at GLRBC for their support of my decision. All the competitors were great and hope to sling shots with you guys soon. Good luck to those of you going to Long Beach.

Josh Longsdorf
Ugly Mug Cafe
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Postby nick on Thu Mar 01, 2007 8:59 pm

Look folks, understand that I'm not saying that I think having the first set sit around is the BEST rule in competition. However, it's a rule.

The USBC/WBC competition is, like it or not, sorta like WindowsXP, in that though there have been some changes, improvements, modifications, etc., it's still build atop the original rules. The "if it ain't broke, don't fix it... fix the broke-stuff" rule has certainly been in effect. That makes it an imperfect system for sure.

However, I will say this: many of the criticisms I've heard about competition are about elements that present a challenge to the competing barista. I say, let the challenges persist.

The competition is NOT about validating you. It's not about giving you high-marks. As I wrote earlier in this thread, our scores, when compared to the total possible points, are fairly low. In my opinion, that's appropriate.

People have complained to me, "But getting a perfect score is impossible!" My answer is, "Should it be possible? Why should it be possible to get a perfect score?"

The "serve four simultaneously" rule, as many other of the rules, should be viewed as built-in handicaps. Yes, it "hurts" the first set to sit around. However, having judged top-level baristas back in Seattle, I know that it is indeed possible to have great shots, even when they were the "first set" pulled. Don't complain because your crema broke. If your technique was better, and your "coffee management" was too, your first set would be fine, and you'd have nothing to complain about.

Sorry... don't mean to sound like such an ass, but that's what I think. Yeah, my crema sucked at the SERBC. But that was due to poor "coffee management" and flawed technique. I forgot to purge some coffee out of my grinder before pulling those shots, and my shots suffered greatly for it.

"Don't hate the playa... hate the game... ... unless that playa is yo-self."

I still believe that drinking the espresso before the second set was served was a judging error. Shit happens though, and it's by no means any sort of scandal or banana-anything. No diss, Josh. It is what it is. Stuff happens unexpectedly in competition all the time. No worries.
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Postby barry on Thu Mar 01, 2007 9:16 pm

nick wrote:it is indeed possible to have great shots, even when they were the "first set" pulled. Don't complain because your crema broke. If your technique was better, and your "coffee management" was too, your first set would be fine, and you'd have nothing to complain about.



In a nutshell: How fast can one dose & tamp? The first set of shots should be no older than that. Even my sorry ass can do the cycle in under 30 seconds. If your espresso is dying/dead in 30 seconds, something else is wrong. If you're only using one group, something is wrong. If you can't have the second set brewing before the first set is finished, something else is wrong. If the tech judges only need one stopwatch for your performance, something else is wrong.
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Postby Jim Saborio on Thu Mar 01, 2007 9:39 pm

... and now, ladies and gentlemen, the crickets.
-JIm

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Postby Jim Schulman on Thu Mar 01, 2007 10:13 pm

barry wrote:
nick wrote:it is indeed possible to have great shots, even when they were the "first set" pulled. Don't complain because your crema broke. If your technique was better, and your "coffee management" was too, your first set would be fine, and you'd have nothing to complain about.



In a nutshell: How fast can one dose & tamp? The first set of shots should be no older than that. Even my sorry ass can do the cycle in under 30 seconds. If your espresso is dying/dead in 30 seconds, something else is wrong. If you're only using one group, something is wrong. If you can't have the second set brewing before the first set is finished, something else is wrong. If the tech judges only need one stopwatch for your performance, something else is wrong.


Ok, the barista adjusts the grind for the second shot, it runs exactly 20 seconds. The first runs exactly 30. The shots complete within 5 seconds of each other. They get identical sensory scores.

If I were a tech judge, my jaw would be dropping, and I'd be considering sixes on "dosing and tamping and "understands the grinder" scores.

But what does it have to do with great espresso? Who exactly is the world barista champion if she or he doesn't make the best espresso on the planet?

This isn't complicated folks. The high jump medalist is the one who jumps highest, not the one who jumps nearly as high, but has the most perfect jumping style (they used to do ski jumping like this until people started throwing tomatoes at the medals ceremonies).

If you want to interest espresso lovers, award a prize for the best espresso. If you want to interest cafe owners, award a prize to the technically and hygenically most prerfect barista. The espresso gods won;t strike you dead if you award more than one prize (gasp).
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Postby Jim Saborio on Thu Mar 01, 2007 10:30 pm

Oh, just wait a minute! Let's re-cap:

So we all rattled our sabers and defended a bunch of rules that we all think are dumb. We poked and prodded at each other, insulted volunteers, ruffled our feathers, barked, and warped the space time continuum a bit. These competition discussions ALL seem to end this way.

Are the people who make/change the rules even reading?

If so, I think there should be a new rule that competitors MUST use a table cloth... make it on a 1-6 pt. scale. If you don't have time to put down a table cloth, something is wrong.
-JIm

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Postby Mark Prince on Fri Mar 02, 2007 2:13 am

nick wrote:The "serve four simultaneously" rule, as many other of the rules, should be viewed as built-in handicaps. Yes, it "hurts" the first set to sit around. However, having judged top-level baristas back in Seattle, I know that it is indeed possible to have great shots, even when they were the "first set" pulled.


To add some additional info to this: while this may have developed into something viewed as a handicap, this rule *was not* created to create a handicap per se. It's one of the "five star experience" holdovers.

The rule existed because the argument was presented that "in a restaurant, everyone sitting at the table expects to be served at the same time". The rule came about from the earliest rule makers for the competitions - you know who they all are. I know the reasons behind this particular rule because I thought it was silly when I first learned about it at a jam over five years ago, and questioned why it was in the books. I still think it a silly, non-realistic rule today.

There's more than enough purpose-built handicaps in the competitions. This is one rule that really should go, because it shows ignorance, and even disrespect for the volatility that espresso has.

Mark
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Postby Mark Prince on Fri Mar 02, 2007 2:19 am

JIm wrote:Oh, just wait a minute! Let's re-cap:

So we all rattled our sabers and defended a bunch of rules that we all think are dumb. We poked and prodded at each other, insulted volunteers, ruffled our feathers, barked, and warped the space time continuum a bit. These competition discussions ALL seem to end this way.

Are the people who make/change the rules even reading?


At the very least, one of them (at the WBC level) is. And I think another involved in the judging panel does as well.

But IMO, what it's really going to take is a directive from the SCAA/SCAE to say "this needs some major changes", and not just at the "cup having a handle or not" level.

Right now, IMO, Barista Competitions pretty much just preach to the converted. It's great for the .orgs because it puts butts in the trade shows. But does it advance genuine appreciation for the art and science of espresso outside of the core group that takes part every year? Sure it does, at least for now - there's always some new faces at every event.

The problem is, it's not nearly enough.

Mark
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Postby barry on Fri Mar 02, 2007 8:47 pm

jim_schulman wrote:But what does it have to do with great espresso? Who exactly is the world barista champion if she or he doesn't make the best espresso on the planet?



as it was abruptly put to me one day a few years back, when i was pestering someone about this very thing: "it's about who's the best barista, not who makes the best espresso."

being a barista is about more than just espresso.


participating in the competition means following the rules, however we may agree or disagree with any one of them. i'm more concerned with making sure the existing rules are enforced uniformly throughout the year than i am with trying to restructure the whole competition. lobby for change, but realize that such change will be gradual and should really only happen once a year (between the end of one comp year and the start of the next).
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Postby Matt Riddle on Fri Mar 02, 2007 8:49 pm

jim_schulman wrote:Ok, the barista adjusts the grind for the second shot, it runs exactly 20 seconds. The first runs exactly 30. The shots complete within 5 seconds of each other. They get identical sensory scores.
Sorry This is a very confusing statement. How can they finish 5 seconds apart?

jim_schulman wrote:If I were a tech judge, my jaw would be dropping, and I'd be considering sixes on "dosing and tamping and "understands the grinder" scores.
IMO this is not the 'perfect� 'understands grinder� situation. This tells me that they didn't have their grinder set from the prep time and they are improvising. Perhaps something is wrong. Even with adjustments it should 1-5 seconds difference. Perhaps they adjust without you knowing they changed anything...They slightly changed their dose or their tamp pressure because they know their coffee. They know what they are looking for. They know what to do in a given situation.

A 6 denotes perfection, being blown away, never before seen. This, to me, is a barista who has 6 sets of shots:

All stopping at exactly the same time
All with the same volume
All with the same visual appearance
All dosed with the same amount of coffee
Nothing left in the grinder
Next to nothing of striking off waste
All distributed the same
Perfectly level tamp
All with the same motions

And all done like they've done it a million times before.

jim_schulman wrote:But what does it have to do with great espresso? Who exactly is the world barista champion if she or he doesn't make the best espresso on the planet?
It has everything to do with great espresso.

jim_schulman wrote:This isn't complicated folks. The high jump medalist is the one who jumps highest, not the one who jumps nearly as high, but has the most perfect jumping style (they used to do ski jumping like this until people started throwing tomatoes at the medals ceremonies).
Correct We also don't judge them on their approach technique or how many steps they take or which foot they lead with. We aren't judging the best shot puller, or milk steamer. We're judging the best Barista. This includes all of the above, the whole package. Coffee knowledge, blend, technique, hygiene, presence, attention to detail, creativity and everything in-between.

jim_schulman wrote:If you want to interest espresso lovers, award a prize for the best espresso. If you want to interest cafe owners, award a prize to the technically and hygenically most prerfect barista. The espresso gods won't strike you dead if you award more than one prize (gasp).
Agreed. Additional awards might generate further interest from a small percentage of onlookers, but there are other competitions that award other prizes and titles as well. There hasn't been a competition developed yet that has the all-inclusive appeal that the WBC has.

If someone develops it please let me know.

JIm wrote: Are the people who make/change the rules even reading?
Yes they are, and keep an eye on this link (new USBC rules) to see the results.
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Postby barry on Fri Mar 02, 2007 8:54 pm

MarkP wrote:Right now, IMO, Barista Competitions pretty much just preach to the converted. It's great for the .orgs because it puts butts in the trade shows. But does it advance genuine appreciation for the art and science of espresso outside of the core group that takes part every year? Sure it does, at least for now - there's always some new faces at every event.

The problem is, it's not nearly enough.



And, again, it needs to be held out in the public eye... not buried in a trade show, not in a roaster's back room, and <sorry> not in a closed-off resort in the mountains.

I'd still like to see one set up in a mall center court. Wow, think about if the MWRBC was held at Mall of America! Or the SERBC was held at Epcot!
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Postby Jim Schulman on Fri Mar 02, 2007 11:13 pm

barry wrote:I'd still like to see one set up in a mall center court. Wow, think about if the MWRBC was held at Mall of America! Or the SERBC was held at Epcot!


"So how'd she do?" "They'll announce it tonight." "That bites, I'm outta here."


ThaRiddla wrote:
jim_schulman wrote:Ok, the barista adjusts the grind for the second shot, it runs exactly 20 seconds. The first runs exactly 30. The shots complete within 5 seconds of each other. They get identical sensory scores.


Sorry This is a very confusing statement. How can they finish 5 seconds apart?


My apologies, I was unclear. This is about the requirement to serve drinks simultaneiously. If one grinds the second shot coarser, the first finer, and levels, tamps and loads the second very fast, one can have them finish almost simultaneously. Another possibility is to use different blends for the first and second pair (if that is within the rules). The second blend could be about flavor. The first laced with some robusta for more stable crema and mouthfeel.
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Postby nick on Sat Mar 03, 2007 7:15 am

jim_schulman wrote:Another possibility is to use different blends for the first and second pair (if that is within the rules).

(it isn't)
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Postby bz on Sat Mar 03, 2007 8:52 am

Right now, IMO, Barista Competitions pretty much just preach to the converted. It's great for the .orgs because it puts butts in the trade shows. But does it advance genuine appreciation for the art and science of espresso outside of the core group that takes part every year? Sure it does, at least for now - there's always some new faces at every event.

The problem is, it's not nearly enough.



yes yes yes. i'm the sort of insane home junkie who just might -- might -- think about travelling to long beach for the usbc. a few changes to make it less about the choir and more about the masses, and it would be a no-brainer, for me and many like me.

currently, there's just a fundamental disconnect in barista competitions. to the observer, it's all about the barista. to the judge, it's all about the drink (as in, the majority of points). and when the casual observer realizes he has NO idea what's really going on, he asks himself, "why am i here?"

i'm not saying dumb the process down. just open it up, so more than just seven people in aprons have a clue. anything less doesn't really advance espresso or the artisanship is takes to make a good one.
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Postby JaanusSavisto on Sat Mar 03, 2007 9:57 am

barry wrote:
MarkP wrote:Right now, IMO, Barista Competitions pretty much just preach to the converted. It's great for the .orgs because it puts butts in the trade shows. But does it advance genuine appreciation for the art and science of espresso outside of the core group that takes part every year? Sure it does, at least for now - there's always some new faces at every event.

The problem is, it's not nearly enough.



And, again, it needs to be held out in the public eye... not buried in a trade show, not in a roaster's back room, and <sorry> not in a closed-off resort in the mountains.

I'd still like to see one set up in a mall center court. Wow, think about if the MWRBC was held at Mall of America! Or the SERBC was held at Epcot!




the Estonian Barista chmpionships are being held in a big shopping mall in Tallinn.... that has everything to do to be seen in the field of people that don`t have a contact with "specialty coffee world"...


if your not heard, shout louder -if youre not seen.... u get the point....

follow the link for pics: http://www.sotapota.ee/ebmv/FrameSet.htm
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Postby nick on Sat Mar 03, 2007 10:40 am

MarkP wrote:Right now, IMO, Barista Competitions pretty much just preach to the converted. It's great for the .orgs because it puts butts in the trade shows. But does it advance genuine appreciation for the art and science of espresso outside of the core group that takes part every year? Sure it does, at least for now - there's always some new faces at every event.

The problem is, it's not nearly enough.

Wholeheartedly disagree. There are less "converted" out there than you think. Remember Mark, not everyone lives in Vancouver.

Are the competitions preaching to the choir? YES! If the "choir" ain't mostly made up of the converted, then indeed, you NEED to preach to the choir before you can preach to the pews.

To rephrase an old adage: don't let the good be the enemy of the 'nearly enough.'

bz wrote:currently, there's just a fundamental disconnect in barista competitions. to the observer, it's all about the barista. to the judge, it's all about the drink (as in, the majority of points). and when the casual observer realizes he has NO idea what's really going on, he asks himself, "why am i here?"

i'm not saying dumb the process down. just open it up, so more than just seven people in aprons have a clue. anything less doesn't really advance espresso or the artisanship is takes to make a good one.

In my opinion... the barista competitions simply aren't ready for prime-time.

As with anything, different people have different interests, and everyone has their own take on the competitions. As a retailer, perennial volunteer, and this year competitor, the competitions are one element of setting standards of quality and of service in the specialty coffee industry.

Don't mean to get overly big-picture here (:wink:), but one of the fundamental issues in specialty coffee is the absence of well-established, well-communicated quality standards; from the seed, all the way to the cup... including the barista-craft. I'm hoping/expecting that over the next few years, the SCAA will better leverage the competitions to truly advance quality standards throughout the industry.

The competitions aren't perfect. However, it's always easy to be the "idea guy." Change takes real work, and more than just ideas on a discussion board.

Maybe the barista-craft can indeed be showcased in a spectator-sport-oriented event. Or, maybe it won't. There are no spectator-friendly "molecular gastronomy competitions" that I know of. Nor are there "sommelier" competitions attracting crowds. Watch the Food Network. There are "crowd-friendly" competitions, and there are competitions that require extensive editing for it to be TV-friendly. Those "Food Network Challenge" shows are ALL about editing and little montages and stuff.

Simply put, the barista competitions are NOT, and perhaps never will be, a spectator sport. With (seriously) all due respect, all of the complaints about lack of audience involvement have come from consumer-enthusiasts. Don't get me wrong: we love having you guys in the crowd, as judges, and as online commentators. However, (as BZ stated) you're not the focus. It's not about you. In our shops, it's supposed to be about you, the consumer. These barista competitions? Not so much. Do you HAVE to feel like you're the focus for you to come, watch, and be engaged? I hope not.

The good news is, every year, the competitions have become more popular, both at regionals and at the USBC. This year, we've all been astounded by the overwhelming response at each of the regionals we've had. Obviously, they're doing something right. It's sometimes helpful to indeed focus on and highlight what's right about the competitions as well... which is an unfortunately unsexy thing to do online.

This competition year has been, already, a very fulfilling one for me. I prepared for my own competition at the SERBC, which was a wild and wonderous experience that I haven't talked about very much. I helped a few baristas prepare for their own regionals, each time a very meaningful and (might I say) successful experience. I've talked to over a hundred baristas, shop-owners, and the like, NONE of whom have participated in competition before, who see getting involved in competition as a key element in their company's progression into higher quality and skills. I've had many moments this year where I (seriously) almost shed a tear, seeing someone "get it" about coffee, thanks to competition involvement.

Preaching to the converted? Make no mistake: the "competitions have serious problems" cadre is as much of an echo chamber as any. Same goes for the "SCAA stinks" brood. Thankfully, I'm reminded almost every day that the vast majority of folks out there actually see these things as meaningful and wonderful and full of possibilities.
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Postby bz on Sat Mar 03, 2007 10:49 am

As a retailer, perennial volunteer, and this year competitor, the competitions are one element of setting standards of quality and of service in the specialty coffee industry.


point well taken. clearly, they have their use within the industry. i remain convinced that they could be used to much greater effect.

Change takes real work, and more than just ideas on a discussion board.


agreed. i hesitate to wade in any more for this very reason -- i'd rather be out playing with severe doses or hosting a smackdown.
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Postby barry on Sat Mar 03, 2007 11:41 am

jim_schulman wrote:
barry wrote:I'd still like to see one set up in a mall center court. Wow, think about if the MWRBC was held at Mall of America! Or the SERBC was held at Epcot!


"So how'd she do?" "They'll announce it tonight." "That bites, I'm outta here."




At least they watched and gained awareness. I'm not against real-time scoring, but if one of the purposes of competition is to promote baristas and specialty coffee, then, as has been noted, the current arrangement is preaching to the choir. Getting the events further out in the public eye would not require any changes to the rules.

Real-time scoring would probably be nifty, but would require rule changes and procedure changes and therefore probably couldn't be implemented until 2009 or 2010 at the earliest.
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Postby barry on Sat Mar 03, 2007 11:48 am

nick wrote:
jim_schulman wrote:Another possibility is to use different blends for the first and second pair (if that is within the rules).

(it isn't)



it's not addressed by the rules. it's not prohibited.
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Postby barry on Sat Mar 03, 2007 11:50 am

jaanus wrote:the Estonian Barista chmpionships are being held in a big shopping mall in Tallinn.... that has everything to do to be seen in the field of people that don`t have a contact with "specialty coffee world"...



SWEET!



outstanding. truly.


please let us know how it works out.
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Postby Mark Prince on Sat Mar 03, 2007 12:56 pm

nick wrote:Simply put, the barista competitions are NOT, and perhaps never will be, a spectator sport. With (seriously) all due respect, all of the complaints about lack of audience involvement have come from consumer-enthusiasts.


This is not true. Right here in this thread a roaster/retailer has stated it needs to move out of trade shows and into public spaces. And sorry to speak for him, but I also believe one of Alistair's issues with Barista comps is that they don't focus enough on consumer awareness and crowd involvement (amongst many things he doesn't like about competitions).

That's just two of many. There are lots of voices in the professional world who have complained about the barista competition format as it is right now, and who believe the comp format needs to do a much better job of being more approachable and sellable to the consuming public. Even one of the people on the committee for judges training has said so in the past.

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Postby nick on Sat Mar 03, 2007 2:07 pm

barry wrote:
nick wrote:
jim_schulman wrote:Another possibility is to use different blends for the first and second pair (if that is within the rules).

(it isn't)



it's not addressed by the rules. it's not prohibited.


2005-2007 USBC/RBC Rules wrote:2.0 COMPETITION FORMAT
Competitors will be judged by four Sensory Judges, two Technical Judges
and one Head Judge. Each competitor shall serve each of the four Sensory
Judges a single espresso, a single cappuccino and a single signature
beverage of his/her choice (espresso-based and alcohol-free), for a total of 12
drinks, during a period of 15 minutes or less. The order in which the drinks are
served is the competitor's decision. However, the four drinks of each category
must be identical and served simultaneously. (Please note: Although each set
of drinks must be identical in content, latte art expression may take any form
the competitor chooses. Latte art does not need to be identical on all four
drinks in the same set.) All four drinks within each category of drinks must be
prepared using the same coffee
; however, competitors can prepare each
category of drinks (i.e. the espressos, cappuccinos, and signature beverages)
using different coffee.


2007 WBC Rules wrote:2 COMPETITION FORMAT

Four Sensory Judges, two Technical Judges and one Head Judge will judge the competitors. Each
competitor shall serve each of the four Sensory Judges a single espresso, a single cappuccino and a
single signature beverage of his/her choice (espresso-based and alcohol-free), for a total of 12 drinks,
during a period of 15 minutes or less. The order in which the drinks are served is the competitor's
decision. However, the four drinks of each category must be identical and served simultaneously. (Please note: Although each set of drinks must be identical in content, latte art expression may take any form the competitor chooses. Latte art does not need to be identical on all four drinks in the same set.) All four drinks within each category of drinks must be prepared using the same coffee; however, competitors can prepare each category of drinks (i.e. the espressos, cappuccinos, and signature beverages) using different coffee. Competitors may produce, as many drinks as they like during the competition, but only the drinks served to the judges will be evaluated.
Nick Cho
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Postby onocoffee on Sat Mar 03, 2007 2:51 pm

I think it's a bit ill-timed to say that all of the complaints have come from the consumer-enthusiasts. I've been a volunteer and competitor in the USBC Regionals, USBC and WBC since January 2004 and I've been highly vocal and critical that the competitions are mind-numbing to watch from the audience to anyone but the ingrained and initiated - and even numbing for many of them.

While the competitions may seem to be more popular, are we asking why? Is it growing consumer interest? Growing professional interest? Is it because the USBC/WBC is truly the showcase of the craft? Or is it because the USBC/WBC is the ONLY showcase of the craft?

As far as the USBC setting standards of quality and service within our craft, I challenge that assertion wholeheartedly.

The USBC has very little understanding or concept of what quality service is about. The "standards of service" the USBC is promoting range from perfunctory to absurd. How many years did we toil under the rules that forced the competitor to set the table IN FRONT of the judges/guests? Too many. The current rules requiring all four drinks served simultaneously is myopic and a detriment to quality. The ability for a competitor to protest after the fact, changing the official standings weeks later is an affront to every competitor and a destroys the legitimacy of the competition.

Not to mention the uneven judging that varies immensely from region to region and judging panel to judging panel - to the point that a competitor receives favoritism from a judge for having "a nice ass."

I'm all for giving the proper "props" to the USBC where they're due, but to delude ourselves into believing that the USBC is end-all, be-all and quality standard for our craft is something beyond what I'm willing to acknowledge.

The USBC/WBC has its' share of problems and shortcomings. It's time we openly recognize those to work through them and improve the competition.
Jay Caragay

Lono
new explorations in coffee + cuisine.
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Postby barry on Sat Mar 03, 2007 3:13 pm

MarkP wrote:That's just two of many. There are lots of voices in the professional world who have complained about the barista competition format as it is right now, and who believe the comp format needs to do a much better job of being more approachable and sellable to the consuming public. Even one of the people on the committee for judges training has said so in the past.



if a goal of the wbc/usbc/bga is to improve the baristas' lot in life, then the consuming public needs to be aware of the skills and talents required. starbucks does nothing for this, now that they've gone superauto. the proliferation of cooking shows and the celebrity status of some chefs has indicated that this sort of recognition for "back of the house" staff possible. if you want to sell $10 lattes so you can pay your baristas $20/hr, then someone somewhere has to convince consumers that there really is skill and talent involved and that our baristas aren't just manual equivalents of a superauto. starbucks, it seems to me, has done a huge disservice to the specialty biz by commoditizing the staff.

put the shows out in public. let the public know the skills and talents involved, and perhaps most important: let the public know what is possible when it comes to espresso drinks.
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