Archive for May, 2008

A Coffee Who?

Is it safe to drive like that?

March 13, 2008 was a lot of driving.

Driving driving driving.

At 12:19 pm Suzie reached 6,000 miles! Here things (once again) got a little silly.

ooooo SOY!

We arrived in Milwaukee to relax with another amazing SITer, Katie. Over dinner Katie tolds us about her experiences promoting sustainability at Alterra Coffee, a Milwaulkie based coffee roaster. That night we slept soundly next to the wall of windows looking out over Lake Michigan.

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March 14, 2008 (The Informative version)

Friday morning led us to the SCAA Great Lakes Barista Competition. Yes, a Barista Competition. This event was extra special because it was the “greenest” barista competition to date. All the items in the SWAG bags were reusable (no samples of this-and-that which come with lots of packaging that gets thrown out), there was a heightened awareness of our water usage (because there were technically no drains and we had to hand empty all the used liquids), and the vendors were all local or eco-friendly businesses; just to name a few amazing Katie efforts.

So, you might be asking…What is a barista competition, anyway?!? What does becoming a champion barista mean? What does that title bring to the person in question?

Besides fame and glory in the coffee world, becoming a champion barista shows that you have truly mastered the art of coffee. What’s the art of coffee? (Gosh, you ask a lot of questions.) The art of coffee is the mastered maneuvering of a myriad of minute details to manufacture magnificent milk and espresso (mmmmmm…….)

In competition, a barista is judged on their presentation, the taste of the coffee and their technical skills: pulling, steaming, pouring, among other things, the cleanliness of their station, and their signature drink. You can browse a list from the Judges manual here: http://www.worldbaristachampionship.com/documents/2007WBCJudgesManual_002.pdf

For example, the way milk is steamed (and then poured) will affect the flavor of a drink and the way it will feel in your mouth. Correctly textured milk will sink under the crema and allow a barista to create those awesome images. The aforementioned crema is also vital. Correctly extracted espresso will have a nice thick layer of red-brown crema on top. This provides the right density for creating art and flavor for tasting. A shot of espresso with no crema will taste sour and that sourness will linger on your tongue for MUCH longer then you want it to.

Now for the real question – how does all of this relate to the Three CoffeeInAction Seeds of Sustainability, Social Responsibility and Community? One answer is Quality. People want to know the coffee they drink will taste good; that’s the bottom line of the specialty coffee industry. There are many debates as to whether “aware” coffee can taste as good as regular coffee (see previous post, for example). More and more these “aware” coffees are making their way into the drinks served by barista competitors and they are scoring just as well. In Milwaukie, a few of the competitors made a point of explaining the origin of their coffee, and mentioned when the coffee was organic or directly sourced.

Sara says

The better quality coffee you use, the better tasting the drink will be. As the art of extracting espresso becomes more prominent, the awareness of coffee growing will also increase. Aaron commented on a past blog about this issue: “Growing good-tasting coffee very often goes hand in hand with doing it sustainably.”

What does this mean for me as a barista? By mastering these materials (coffee, milk, crema etc….), I am committing to the pursuit of excellence and to a quality product. It also reflects a commitment to ongoing learning and improvement. I am learning how to pour hearts and rosettas as you read this. Perfecting a simple heart can take months of practice. The answer to the questions, in short, is that a superior product served well reflects the knowledge and skill of the barista, and serves to improve the standards in all aspects of the coffee industry.’

Not to mention what the competition do for the coffee community! You have a high concentration or nervous, over caffeinated coffee people in one room for 8 hours at a time. While volunteering we were able to get to know a number of baristas and other coffee enthusiasts. More seasoned baristas and cafĂ© owners had a chance to catch up with each other, and us newbie’s exchanged information and enthusiasm. (Someone even recognized us!! “Are you the CoffeeInAction girls?” – I thought I was going to pass out I felt so cool – Mel)

-Sara Rose and Melanie

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