From Cafe to Competition

From Cafe to Competition

March 11, 2014
Barista competitions are a whole new world of coffee skills. A great cafe barista can’t just walk into competition and do well; there is a lot of specific training that only matters on the competition stage. And yet, as you take that journey to learn how to score well on the sensory and technical scoresheets, you find a lot of knowledge that in turn makes you a better cafe barista.
How do I prepare for barista competition?

1. Scoresheets - I always start by reading scoresheets and rules/regulations thoroughly – you should understand every detail of what is expected. When you’ve done this you recognise a number of things that help you further prepare.
2. Bean Selection - The espresso is the single highest weighted beverage of all three rounds, and it is also the quickest one to serve. On competition day this should be as simple as pulling good shots, serving them and describing what the judges will experience.The hard part for me is the weeks/months leading up to this – cupping, roasting, experimenting, profiling different brew recipes and bean types and finding the right coffee to take with me on comp day.Once I know what coffee to use and how it stacks up on the sensory scoresheet, serving it on comp day is the easy part!
3. Creativity and Synergy - This is something I consider as I decide how to set the judges table, what music to play and what crockery, napkins and glassware to use. After all sensory experience is not just on your tongue.This is also hugely relevant when considering ingredients to use for my signature drink. End of the day the espresso must be the hero, but they’ve already tasted the espresso, so I think about this with the following question: What can I do to this drink to make the experience more impressive? And make the judges want to finish the entire thing!
4. Workflow and Presence - The way you move and command the stage gives an impression about your confidence and your control. Obviously every competitor is way out of their comfort zone in competition; this isn’t your usual coffee space. So practice.When practicing sets I try to replicate comp conditions, from the music, to the position of the grinder and milk jugs, right down to how I will load the trolley that I use for my preparation time. That way, competition day isn’t so scary... I’ve done this before.

Now just smile, speak confidently and do it again!