Becoming the Coffee Champion is a bit of everyone’s dream, but that’s not to say that those who don’t become one are not Champions in their daily lives.
Triestespresso, way back in 2012 (it’s already been 8 years but it seems like yesterday). I show up at the visitors’ entrance to watch the then CIBC (Italian Barista Championship) selections live, and cheer on my colleague and friend who prepared to participate.
As excited as a child at the amusement park, I walked up and peeked backstage and noticed some prominent figures who seemed to me to be unreachable figures. That day was the first approach to the world of competitions, which over the course of these 8 very fast years has seen me as a spectator, buddy, competitor (in many disciplines), judge and finally coach…
In this short article I want to reflect on what I took home from these experiences. Competitions, when accompanied by the right spirit, lead to professional growth, whatever your perspective and whatever you do. They all make you learn something.
Entering a competition involves research, study, dedication, numerous tastings, but it’s not just hard work. It also means that you will encounter points of view other than your own, which will lead you to broaden your vision and make you win, regardless of the final result. The judges themselves, so feared and professional, have a thirst for experience that they will bring in as personal and unique baggage.
I tell you about my experience in this world of competitions, depending on the role I adopted. How we help today, each to be a Coffee Champion in their own way.
Spectator: I watch and scrutinize the movements, experience the emotions and performances of the competitors as they recount their research and studies on coffees, their extractions and techniques. I marvel at the drinks the judges will taste and indirectly “absorb” new ideas and skills and am surprised by their results (but there is a downside…the mouth watering that remains from not being able to taste those preparations).
Buddy: I serve as a partner and sidekick to a competitor, I savor the atmosphere of competition preparation, share the ideas and tests of those who will take the stage. I breathe in the adrenaline of backstage, cart preparation and the moments before the performance of the contestants in the competition. I almost hold my breath during the moments on the platform, because it’s like I’m up there too.
Competitor: I get a message, “You are entered in the latte art competition.” PANIC. Now I’m in the eye of the storm (albeit in a good way), but I decide to accept the challenge and put myself out there and whatever happens I know my growth will be exponential. Pre-race preparation and research, trial and error to fine-tune every possible detail, time and energy to best manage the moments of competition (possibly even those before and after). No one will ever take that experience away from me, whatever the outcome. Fortunately, it will not remain my only race-each one stands on its own and I will carry them all in my luggage. A few years from there, I become Cafeteria Champion in the Ibrik/Cezve discipline for 3 consecutive years.
Judge: I decide to take “the counter jump” and after careful sensory calibration and reading the regulations here I am analyzing the performances. I live on my skin the experiences that the competitors have studied to transport me, in their choices, coffees and recipes (along with their emotions). In the days leading up to it, I feel like I have to compete because I sense the responsibility. I want to give it my all and be as helpful as I can to grow the experience of those who gave me their experience (and I made up for all those times when I was just watching, the watering hole was fully satisfied).
Coach: an opportunity to support the choices and preparation of a competition comes unexpectedly. I don’t pass it up, because I know that all roles lead to great growth. We start as routine with the basic choices and immediately I realize that all the previous figures have served me well in advising what to do and with not to do. I don’t know you can measure how much my role has helped, but certainly the competitor has given me a lot. By making me experience the adrenaline of the platform from the outside, knowing every minute detail, every second, every syllable and every breath (and trust me it was harder than being on top of that stage). To this day, we continue to support every Coffee Champion who contacts us through our From Bean To Cup program.
During classroom chats, I push those around me to approach competitions with curiosity and proper interest so that they can be protagonists (direct or indirect) and grow in the coffee world with its infinite “colors” and nuances.
ANYONE CAN BE A COFFEE CHAMPION (even if only metaphorically) by taking home unique knowledge and experience because it was experienced firsthand.
Simone Cattani, CTA Manager