For The Love of Coffee and The Western Canadian Barista Championship
During the last weekend of August I was in Victoria, BC to attend For The Love of Coffee and to judge the Western Canadian Barista Championship and the Canadian Pairs Barista Competition. The events were organized and hosted by The Canadian Coffee Collective with Reg Barber’s assistance. It was great to experience the awesome things that are happening with Canada’s coffee culture and to connect (and judge) with Andrea Piccolo and Mike Strumpf from Batdorf & Bronson’s coffee decaffeinator – Swiss Water Decaf.
The highlight of the event was the informal pairs competition. Each pair of baristas works together for ten minutes to dial in their espresso (everyone uses the same coffee for this event) and then serve a pair of sensory judges two espressos, two cappuccinos, two macchiatos, and two lattes. Audience members and other competitors are encouraged to heckle competitors and generally create a chaotic environment much like a busy coffeehouse.
The pairs competition had a loose and unpretentious feel, but the baristas were seriously engaged in producing great coffee and providing stellar service to their judges. Each member of the winning team took home a Mahlkönig K30 grinder and one of Reg Barber’s sweet trophies. These events, much like the workflow trainings poping up in Batdorf & Bronson’s curriculum and as an SCAA offering, are key to pushing specialty coffee forward because they call upon baristas to balance quality, neatness, and technical acumen, along with speed of service in a (slightly more) real-world atmosphere than solo barista competitions. I roped Ben Brown from Nuova Simonelli into judging the competition. It was his first time evaluating baristas in competition!
I tasted some great coffees and witnessed a breadth of experience, quality, and confidence from the competitors in the Western Canadian Barista Championship. Props to Morgan Allen from Fernwood Coffee for taking first place with a confident and polished performance; tasty espressos and cappuccinos; and examples of ristretto, normale, and lungo espressos as his signature course which challenged the judges during evaluation and calibration.
One of the joys of my job is that I get to taste coffees and connect with coffee communities around the world. Similarities and differences between the ways we all work are inspiring and energizing.
Reg Barber’s extensive Flickr gallery from the event: http://www.flickr.com/photos/10704206@N08/sets/72157627441376507/with/6096447595/