For the first 5 years of my career, I competed in barista competitions. In fact, my competition experience adds up to 22 rounds, 7 judges each, giving me 154 individual score sheets that were filled out by some highly caffeinated human being. I can only imagine how much actual time that equates to when you consider judges calibrations, travel time, etc.
Last weekend, at the Big Central Regional, I began to see what judging a competition really is like. Frankly, I feel like there’s never been a better time to sit at a competitors table.
First off, the rules are more black and white than they’ve ever really been in the past. There’s less room for opinion, and I feel like this makes it easier for both competitors and their judges. As the crew of Head Judges continually repeated, “As a judge you are simply there to record what happens on the stage.”
The process is truly enjoyable as well. In fact, I came away from the weekend feeling like I met more people judging than I ever did as a competitor. Some of this is just me… As a competitor I was head-down, doing what I needed to to prepare to compete. As a judge, however, there’s much more of a social experience. You work in groups, and work to sync your sensory skills. It naturally connects you to new people.
The level of competition has truly never been higher. The “blind” first time competitor is really a thing of the past. There’s enough internet video and connection between baristas, that when someone takes the stage for the first time, they are much more aware of the circumstances than the competitors of the past. I was seriously impressed by the calm, professional demeanor of so many first-time competitors.
All in all, I’m really honored to have been able to be a small part of an excellent competition event. The NWRBC is next weekend, and I’m also looking forward to that as we continue on the road to the USBC. To any past competitors, I urge you to consider judging as well. It’s an incredibly rewarding experience. When I left Kansas City, I left with a somewhat warm, fuzzy feeling- Reminiscent of how I felt coming away from my first competitions, excited, and hungry for more.