When I’m not writing or attending classes, I am a professional coffee geek. Not just some run-of-the-mill Starbucks employee, no- but a bona fide coffee lover. I started working in coffee to pay my way through college, and I was soon really digging it. Eventually, I was swept up into a community of almost unbelievable coffee geekdom: I recently competed at the Western Regional Barista Competition. (Yes, there is such a thing.)
The winners go on to the U.S. Barista Championship, and the winner of that goes to the World Barista Championship. The top baristas get paid gigs with companies that make coffee equipment and tons of prizes, cash and perks. Although I didn’t make the final round, it was an eye-opening experience (no lame coffee pun intended).
The last person who attended the WRBC in the company I work for was my boss, who went six years ago. The whole game has changed dramatically since then, and it’s now all about knowing the farmers, their sustainability practices, etc., and it has a strong fine-dining vibe; competitors must talk through the whole presentation, present perfectly ironed place mats and napkins and refill the judges’ water glasses often. The winners had epic drinks with fresh ingredients- one guy was juicing blood oranges, other people were using citrus grown in their yards. You can see my presentation, and video of the winners, at coffeebean.com.
Fancy, schmancy indeed- and although it seems beyond the interest of the average coffee-drinker, it’s really not. The specialty coffee movement has already expanded so much that it’s probably affected your morning cuppa joe. It was also really interesting to see how the organic movement has taken over since six years ago. People want to know where their food and drinks come from. It’s encouraging, and hopefully prompts more transparency in the food industry.
If you haven’t read any of Michael Pollan’s work, please do, and here’s a review by a friend to urge you. I hope your weekend is sufficiently caffeinated.