The US Barista Championship is right around the corner. My first. Six weeks is a blink of an eye in which to prepare, practice and perform. Having gone through a regional I feel I have the broad outlines already in place. But as I hone inward on the event using a traditional SWOT, I am reminded of some things.
- A good barista can make up for not having the most amazing equipment if he works, works, works to neutralize the disadvantage. This is like a baseballer using an inferior glove. Work hard on hustling to the ground balls and you can mitigate the fact that your glove’s web is 2″ shorter than all the other second basemens’. I have very good equipment (my grinder). But it’s not the latest and greatest and I busted tail to make it work to my advantage at the SCRBC. It paid off with two technical 6’s.
- Music is everything. And nothing. (This is a tough one for me, as I love and live for music.) Selecting the proper soundtrack is the difference between wanting to show the world how awesome your musical tastes are and finding the right groove to grease the wheels of what you’re saying and serving. Let the music set the scene; don’t let it take over the show.
- It’s not a statement. Don’t go out there trying to make a bleeding heart point. Present yourself, your drinks professionally and pleasantly. Nobody cares what your beef is on whatever point you are trying to make.
- Tie it together. Choose what you want to say for the five times you’ll be at the judges’ table and thread them together. Don’t make it five vignettes. Make it a seamless whole.
- On wording. Take what you want to say and cut it in half. Then study what you have left and cut that in half. THAT is what you should say. (This is an old preacher’s trick…though many a country preacher never practiced that at all!)
- Use the force.
Okay, so that last one isn’t necessarily part of my strategy. But kind of it is, in that it’s not all about technical presentation and relying on your wares. Anyone can be trained to do all the technical stuff. But you can’t train heart. Each barista has to bring that inherently with them and build it into everything he does.
Naturally, there are a whole lot of other moving parts to doing well. But these are some of the things I am focusing on at six weeks out. Painting with a very broad brush right now, fully expecting to tighten and tighten as things (quickly) approach.