Tuesday, May 02, 2006

the competition barista

I've spent a good bit of time recently helping Karl prepare for the WBC in Bern. We've been lucky enough to get a La Marzocco gb5 in to the training room, allowing us to get familiar with the competition machine of choice. Of course a good barista should be able to work off any machine but it's certainly no harm to get used to the feel of it. We spent most of Sunday and Monday morning tasting around 60 different ingredients looking for something that might add that extra spark to the signature drink. Since then though, I've been wondering which is the best way to go about developing a Competition Signature Drink. I'm not too sure whether the practical feasability of these drinks in working cafes is a crucial feature for the judges , or even whether it should be. Is practiality so important an issue that a competitor should feel restricted in his/her experimenting? Should they always be on the look out for new flavours or culinary techniques to adopt? Or should they first start with the coffee, and work from there? Is this good advice?

  • Find or develop an amazing espresso blend.
  • Make your technique flawless so you can show the judges just how special this coffee is.
  • Show the new flavours that come out when combined with the right amount of smooth textured milk.
  • After deciding what flavours are inherent in the cup, then develop a drink using ingredients that either further bring out the flavour profiles of the coffee or compliment them.

I kind of agree with this except that it is a barista competition, and not a coffee competition. So should I add 'be charming, clean and informative' to the list? I probably should. I worry though that there'll be a point in the future, where the machinery gets so advanced that all the brewing variables are controlled and the barista's role is more alike to a waiter's. Even if you ignore the machine side, is it fair to say that as barista education spreads, the standards will keep rising, and perhaps the margins of difference in barista skills will narrow and it will fall to the charm of the barista's personality to win, not their technique?

I know I'm looking very far ahead of what the reality is, and I think the bar can still be raised much much higher, but does anyone else think about this? I've heard it said before, but is it the role of a barista to be invisible and let the coffee shine? Ugh. I haven't a clue. Leave a comment, am I barmy? I hate exams.

all for now


At 5/11/2006 01:10:00 p.m., Blogger freakybean said...

Hi, Stephen. Enjoying your blog - maybe I should try my hand at one? - and just wanted to wish Karl and all his team the very best at the forthcoming WBC in Bern!


Grant (Mercanta The Coffee Hunters)

At 5/12/2006 05:25:00 p.m., Blogger flyingthud said...

thanks Grant,

I've heard Jim mention your name a few times before. For the recored, I know I'd read a blog by anyone at mercanta.


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