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.