Espresso Madness

Two of the baristas (Otter and Miro) from the Ugly Mug (my local Coffee Shop of Record) are competing in the Great Lakes Regional Barista Competition this upcoming weekend. I volunteered to serve as one of the judges for a test run they did this evening.

It was an interesting process, and a lot of fun. Through my co-worker Charles (who also volunteered) I got the judges guide, and had read through it a couple times before we started. There were various things to judge on — as a sensory judge I was tasting all the drinks, but there were also ratings on things like color and temperature of the drinks, or details like did each place have a napkin, water glass, demitasse spoon and sugar, and did all the drinks arrive at the same time. There were three drinks each: a espresso, a cappuccino (in the traditional sense, 1/3 each espresso, milk and foam) and a "signature drink", basically a drink invented by the barista.

Having never done anything like judging, I didn't say all that much until near the end of us talking with Otter, but seemed to get more into the flow of things when judging Miro's stuff. A lot of the competition seems to be in communicating — the scoring has parts for how knowledgable and passionate you are about coffee, and also in explaining your signature drink or what blend of beans you used for your espresso — and since I've been told I do public speaking well I seemed to concentrate on that more near the end.

All in all, a ton of fun. I think I'm really fortunate to live so close to a very high quality coffee shop, and it was cool to be invited to help out with this, a bit behind the scenes so to speak (which I always like doing). Of course, for various reasons it started later than 9:30 pm as was originally planned, and having the equivalent of six shots of espresso starting at about midnight means I probably won't sleep well (or at all) tonight, but still, very much worth it.

Good luck to Otter and Miro this weekend.