NW Regional Barista Competition wrap-up

This past weekend, I had the privilege of competing in this year’s NW Regional Barista Championship that coincided with the Second annual NW Brewer’s Cup competition. Baristas from all over the Northwest region ( Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington), gathered at the Tacoma Convention Center for this annual competition. Most of the competitors in the Barista Competition were from Portland,OR and most of the competitors in the Brewer’s Cup competition were from Olympia,WA.

This was my fourth time competing on the regional level, my second time in the Northwest, which is the most competitive  region of all the six regions. Friday, I unloaded my truckload of serving wares, grinder and coffee to the Tacoma Convention Center. I then helped Alex , one of our retail employees who competed in the brewer’s cup competition,dial in the coffee he was set to brew in the compulsory brewing round. I watched the first three competitors and noticed that the quality of performance was significantly higher than it has been in previous years.

Saturday, was a fun and rewarding day. Most competitors performed on Saturday and there were more audience members to cheer on the baristas. I was a bundle of nerves, but I stayed in the competitor’s prep area, endlessly polishing and listening to Dolly Parton for hours on end. The headphones helped me block out all the other competitor’s conversations. I would highly advise a new competitor to bring headphones with them. The negative self-talk that happens backstage is overwhelming and can make you second guess yourself.

As the clock ticked to my scheduled competiton time, I dosed myself on herbal anti-anxiety tinctures and tried to visualize myself as I have many times, rehearsing my script and the deliberate movements of the performance. I checked off my mental checklist twice, maybe 10 times. I breathed deeply and asked myself “is it too late to back out?”

I went on stage for my 15 minutes of preparation/stage-setting before the 15 minute performance time. Having practiced stage set-up during my time in our training lab at our Olympia roasting works, I had a clear idea of what I needed to do to get everything set perfectly for the judges. Everything was set at the 15 minute mark. I was ready to show the seven judges what I am capable of.

My fifteen minutes was over in a flash. My concept of deconstructing taste into three primary elements of taste (acidity, body and aftertaste) was well-received by the audience and the judges. Each course served represented an element of taste. The espresso was acidity, the cappuccino was body and signature beverage represented all three elements with an emphasis on aftertaste.

There were only a couple of snags in my presentation. Overall, I was pleased with how I represented myself as a coffee professional. I placed in the top 10 out of 22 competitors and after my presentation, I invited members of the audience to come up to the stage and experience the deconstructed beverages. I’m very glad that I didn’t allow my inner anxiety to take over my willingness to perform. I’m glad that I competed amongst the most talented and poised coffee professionals in the US and I am looking forward to competing in Portland at the US barista Championship April 19th-22nd .

I would like to thank everyone at Batdorf &Bronson for their support, Heather Ringwood for being  a sounding board for my ideas. Also, my “teammate” Alex Choppin for his steadfastedness and willingness to help me and ease my anxiety. He was so calm in his compulsory brewing round and I think his placid attitude was contagious.

For more information about the regional and national barista championships, please visit www.usbaristachampionship.org

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