It’s taken me a while to admit it (to myself) but I will go on to compete in Anaheim in April for the USBC. At first I didn’t want to consider it. I was mostly decompressing from my first barista competition, as well as wanting to just enjoy the moment of punching a bit above my weight class in coming within 2 points of actually winning the region.
But now the reality sets in that if I want to have any shot at not embarrassing myself completely on a larger stage I’d better get back to it. For me it starts with a Lessons Learned exercise. What worked well? What fell flat? What judge’s advice can/should be implemented? And of course: what do I want to say via the signature beverage and overall presentation?
I’ve been asked if I will simply overlay my regional performance/sigbev into Anaheim. Flatly…no. I’m sick of that layout. In order to make this work I have to challenge myself to start over. In sports that usually means watching lots of film of your competition. I will surely do that with different eyes now having gone through it once. It also means finding film of yourself and watching it (anyone have any footage to share?) to identify your tendencies–good and bad–to either build upon them or fix them.
In many ways a barista competition appeals to the best of several sides of my personality. It’s a strategy game that unfolds over several weeks/months. One has to consider small details of both tactics and strategy over the training period and for within that 15 minutes.
Secondly, it’s a technician’s game. Nothing artful can really shine without the skeleton of solid technical execution. That minute technical regimen also appeals to my analytical nature as well as to my fascination with the need to develop muscle memory over an extended period of time in order to make your technical presentation seem artful.
And finally, the art. On so many levels the good barista is selling the sizzle as much as the steak. It is so obviously true that to be memorable one has to speak and move fluidly. Not just in a mechanical way, but in the way that the words that come from you seem as though they HAD to come from you, that there was nothing else that could be said that would make nearly as much sense. That bald reality of boiling it down to its pure and delicious essense (if you take my meaning) is an art.
I haven’t even touched the taste aspects of it, only to risk seeming self-congratulatory to say that I felt my competition espresso (Chinati) was flat out the most delicious espresso blend I’ve ever concocted. That could mean something really special, or it could mean I suck at creating espresso blends in general and the bar was so low I could trip over it and still surpass the previous stuff with flying colors. But even that I think must be tossed out the window and rethought, re-approached. Different stuff will be in season. (The roasters reading this will understand that statement acutely.)
Onward to Anaheim it is then. Will I see you there?