BGA camp pull-a-shot

Last week, I had the priveledge of attending the 2nd annual Barista Guild of America retreat “Camp pull-a-shot”, at the beautiful El Capitan Canyon resort in Goleta,CA. The Camp is an intensive for barista guild members to advance their skill sets through classes and their credentials through certification exams. I signed up to be a station instructor for a few classes to excercise my training skills and a few classes to contribute towards my BGA level 2 certification.

I arrived at El Capitan on monday afternoon after a long ride on a quiet bus from Los Angeles. Everyone on the bus looked in dire need of coffee. I was assigned to bunk in a cabin with 3 other coffee professionals,a former united States Barista Champion and two other new baristas. I made my way up the mountain towards the main staging area for the classes ( which were all in yurts and tents). On my way I ran into a buck and a doe eating some of the wild grasses on the side of the path, a gopher and a family of rabbits. Upon arrival at the main staging area, I saw several of my Pacific Northwest barista friends along with fellow B&B employees, Jason Dominy and Chandler Rentz. The beer, donated by green bean importers Cafe Imports, flowed freely out of a modified espresso machine as the keg tap. After the brief beer interlude, we all headed for dinner and were formed into a group of twelve teams. I was on team 12 “the smackhammers”,with 11 other baristas with a varied amount of experience as coffee professionals. The night’s team excercise was a price is right/jeopardy game show tournament with each team having a turn at the podium to answers questions based on coffee knowledge.

Next morning began with the first teams stationed at the “cafe” tent. Each team competed with each other to get the highest rating from their secret shoppers. Each team was evaluated on their customer service skills, the quality of the coffee served and how well they worked together as a team. Each team worked seamlessly to complete drink orders. Some teams went above and beyond, sneaking out of camp to pick up pastries to offer to their customers.

My first class was as a station instructor for introduction to espresso. Initially, I was overwhelmed by the thought of having 11 people crowded around me and the espresso machine, and being an effective instructor in that setting. I eased into the training environment easily and was able to apply some of what B&B trys to instill in our students in our training courses. I was sick and dosed up on cold medicine, I’m sure that half of what i said sounded like jibberish. At the end of that session, i referred to Umami, the fifth flavor, as “the mystical unicorn of the flavor wheel”.

explaining mystical unicorns in the espresso trailer

The second nights team tournament involved a relay race, each part of the relay was to fetch a necessary piece of equipment to brew a cup of coffee. I ended up having to eat a donut with my hands behind my back in order to retrieve the cups to brew our coffee into. My team finished 1st in time, but when it came to how our cup tasted, we scored the lowest. whoops.

The next morning, I started my day with being a station instructor for Introduction to Cupping, led by Trish Rothgeb, a Q-certified cupper who has been a roaster for 20 years.As a station instructor, I learnt alot under the tutelage of Trish and employing the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s standard cupping protocol.

I was also able to have the experience of explaining cupping protocol and how to use the correct vocabulary with a group of people who had a very varied amount of experience working with coffee.

Later on, after the morning session of cupping, I attended the BGA milk and latte art class, led by SouthCentral BGA representative, Lorenzo Perkins. The class was broken up into several stations, depending on the amount of experience that each barista had. I was at the “can consistently pour hearts and rosettas” station with Michael Fernandez, from EspressoParts NW and Rusty Angell from Bunn Brewing Co. It was a fantastic and humbling experience to have with other seasoned baristas.

photo by Michael Fernandez

In addition to participating in the classes offered at camp, I felt priveledged to be included in some of the ongoing conversations that the Specialty Coffee Industry is delving into; understanding coffee extraction and the science of brewing, sustainability practices, diversifying and addressing the stratification of the consumer in the cafe atmosphere. Overall, Camp gave me “the warm fuzzies”, not only about working in the industry but also working for Batdorf &Bronson. I feel very lucky that I had this experience of full immersion style learning and I cant wait until next year’s Camp Pull-a-Shot.
My coffee family is awesome

My coffee family is awesome ( with Chandler Rentz, Trainer and Educator and Jason Dominy, Customer Outreach and Support)

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