prima-coffee.com: coffee & espresso equipment and accessories

Barista Competitions; Who Gives a Sh** - Page 5

Postby Ken Fox on Thu Sep 28, 2006 1:34 am

Nick wrote:No response: Who gives a sh**?

And Ken, I'm starting with the man in the mirror, I'm asking him to change his ways. And no message could have been any clearer: If you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself, and then make a change... Na na na, na na na, na na, na nah.


Given a choice of responding to your posts, such as this one, and going to bed, I'll . . . . . . gosh, the question answers itself!

Respectfully,

ken
What, me worry?

Alfred E. Neuman, 1955
Ken Fox
 
Posts: 2453
Joined: Oct 28, 2005
Location: Idaho

Postby another_jim on Thu Sep 28, 2006 1:56 am

Ken Fox wrote:Granted, there are good reasons why the top cafes would choose to compete with each other than to raise the quality of their competition in their surrounding areas. Granted, there are all sorts of peripheral benefits accruing to the coffee business community for leaving these barista competitions as currently structured. This does not mean that this current structure benefits us, the home baristas, for whom this website is named. This does not mean that the current structure benefits the baristas much either. They might well be better off with a competition structured to widen the base, since by widening the base there will be more potential employers for them, which can only improve their job situations and wages, which of course further strengthens the argument that the current structure benefits the industry more than any other group.


The problem with that is that head to head competition pushes in the other direction. If the competition catches on, people devote more resources to it, and it takes more and more to win. Thus the group of people who can join in, with even a prayer of success, becomes ever more limited. The payoff that remains is that the competitions become arenas for the state of the art; and people pay attention and try to emulate. As I said, drinking shots pulled by the stars of these competitions has certainly been a wakeup call for me, and started me scrambling to improve my home espresso.

Instead of widening participation at these national level events, it may be better to widen the group of people paying attention:

Golf, tennis, bridge and a few other sports feature a very deep hierarchy of competition, so that people can work their way up from neighborhood level events to the nationals. The top levels are populated by pros; but everyone gets a chance to try and to rub shoulders. I don't know about golf, but most of these sports have ranking systems too, so one can slowly work up ones ranking by winning in enough local and regional events, thereby qualifying for the higher reaches. Rather than making the current USBC and regionals less intense, one could add a few tournament layers underneath, held frequently at local roasters or equipment dealers, where people can come, pay their BGA dues (even amateurs), try their hands, and add a few points to their BGA ratings.

If such a system garners participants in the thousands, rather than the hundreds, it might even make a dent in San Diego :D
User avatar
another_jim
Team HB
 
Posts: 9203
Joined: May 05, 2005
Location: Chicago

Postby Ken Fox on Thu Sep 28, 2006 9:35 am

another_jim wrote:The problem with that is that head to head competition pushes in the other direction. If the competition catches on, people devote more resources to it, and it takes more and more to win. Thus the group of people who can join in, with even a prayer of success, becomes ever more limited. The payoff that remains is that the competitions become arenas for the state of the art; and people pay attention and try to emulate. As I said, drinking shots pulled by the stars of these competitions has certainly been a wakeup call for me, and started me scrambling to improve my home espresso.

Instead of widening participation at these national level events, it may be better to widen the group of people paying attention:

Golf, tennis, bridge and a few other sports feature a very deep hierarchy of competition, so that people can work their way up from neighborhood level events to the nationals. The top levels are populated by pros; but everyone gets a chance to try and to rub shoulders. I don't know about golf, but most of these sports have ranking systems too, so one can slowly work up ones ranking by winning in enough local and regional events, thereby qualifying for the higher reaches. Rather than making the current USBC and regionals less intense, one could add a few tournament layers underneath, held frequently at local roasters or equipment dealers, where people can come, pay their BGA dues (even amateurs), try their hands, and add a few points to their BGA ratings.

If such a system garners participants in the thousands, rather than the hundreds, it might even make a dent in San Diego :D


This is a good suggestion and one that should be given very serious consideration. It would certainly have more impact on cafe espressomaking in general than would the sorts of things I have seen discussed on the previous threads about these championships.

ken
What, me worry?

Alfred E. Neuman, 1955
Ken Fox
 
Posts: 2453
Joined: Oct 28, 2005
Location: Idaho

Postby Compass Coffee on Thu Sep 28, 2006 9:50 am

HB wrote:Correction. Ken is a curmudgeon, not a troll. They are easily confused for one another. :lol:

Cumudgeon, yes, crusty and ill tempered seems seems appropriate description.

Ken Fox wrote:I am certain that many of the bad cafes out there don't care about quality, but I'm equally sure that there are quite a few owners who would welcome improvement. I have obviously challenged some assumptions you hold near and dear and I'm sorry that has angered you as evidenced by this post and others you have made in this thread.

You've challenged nothing and far from angered. 'Tis your assumptions going awry.

Ken Fox wrote:Nonetheless, it is irrefutable in my opinion that the direction these competitions are taking is not doing much to elevate the large mass of cafes whose quality could be improved with some relatively simple steps including basic barista training and use of better raw materials (e.g. the coffee). This thread was started, by me, as both a reaction to the recent plethora of posts about current barista competitions, and as an attempt to get people thinking about whether the process as currently existing does very much to benefit the great mass of cafes out there. I believe strongly that it does not.


Your irrefutable opinion seems to have been refuted by the preponderance of replies yet remains irrefutable.

Ken Fox wrote:And, I also believe that I have next to no ability to change the process as currently structured, but hold out the hope that if it is discussed, perhaps others will see the issue the same way and if enough people do, the process will change.
ken

That seems a cop out. Yet if you believe you have "next to no ability to change the process" that makes it true, and is indeed the easy way out rather than getting actively involved in the process of changing that which you say you believe needs changing. How about some constructive suggestions and specifics of what "should be changed" in the Barista competitions to effectively bring things like better barista training and coffee knowledge to cafes that need improvement. Training and knowledge that is already readily available should said cafe owners care to seek it.
Mike McGinness, Head Bean (Owner/Roast Master)
http://www.CompassCoffeeRoasting.com
Compass Coffee
Sponsor
 
Posts: 1682
Joined: Jun 03, 2005
Location: Vancouver, WA, USA

Postby Ken Fox on Thu Sep 28, 2006 10:06 am

Compass Coffee wrote:That seems a cop out. Yet if you believe you have "next to no ability to change the process" that makes it true, and is indeed the easy way out rather than getting actively involved in the process of changing that which you say you believe needs changing. How about some constructive suggestions and specifics of what "should be changed" in the Barista competitions to effectively bring things like better barista training and coffee knowledge to cafes that need improvement. Training and knowledge that is already readily available should said cafe owners care to seek it.


Honestly, I could respond to your various accusations on this and other threads and maybe it would make me feel good but why bother. The simple fact is that our online personas don't mesh well and I don't care to have an online pi**ing match with anyone, yourself included.

ken
What, me worry?

Alfred E. Neuman, 1955
Ken Fox
 
Posts: 2453
Joined: Oct 28, 2005
Location: Idaho

Postby HB on Thu Sep 28, 2006 10:14 am

Ken Fox wrote:This is a good suggestion and one that should be given very serious consideration. It would certainly have more impact on cafe espressomaking in general than would the sorts of things I have seen discussed on the previous threads about these championships.

Agreed, but it doesn't have to be an either-or proposition. Barista Jams, EspressoFests, weekly cuppings, they all have a common goal: Engage the public. The primary reason the majority of cafes are disappointing (to us) is because the majority of consumers are generally satisifed. I see happy customers streaming out of Starbucks every day. Most are no longer happy with such establishments the day after they experience the difference available at a top-notch cafe.

The question, it seems to me, is not the value of competitions, it's how do you raise the awareness that fine espresso exists. Competitions are one way to get that message to the public, but certainly not the only way.
Dan Kehn
User avatar
HB
 
Posts: 14558
Joined: Apr 29, 2005
Location: Cary, NC

Postby terryz on Thu Sep 28, 2006 11:05 am

Nick wrote:No response: Who gives a sh**?

And Ken, I'm starting with the man in the mirror, I'm asking him to change his ways. And no message could have been any clearer: If you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself, and then make a change... Na na na, na na na, na na, na nah.


:shock: Say it aint so! Ok, that's it, when the conversation turns to using Michael Jackson lyrics to settle the score.........I'm out. I mean really Dude :D Geez.
Terry Z
Espressoparts.com
____________________________________
Much of espresso speculation is faith based.- Michael Teahan 2011
terryz
 
Posts: 151
Joined: May 03, 2005
Location: Olympia, WA

Postby OlywaDave on Thu Sep 28, 2006 11:37 am

Ken Fox wrote:Dave,

Obviously you know your area much better than I do, and yes, I do remember the tour you graciously provided. I would say however that it was my impression back then that there were a helluva lot more than 3 or 4 damn good cafes in Seattle a couple of years ago. Presumably that number has increased, but Seattle is just the sort of place where you could expect that if there would be a tendency towards improvement, that you would find it, whether it comes from barista competitions or whatever.

But the country is not Seattle, nor is the world. So the question is how do you get basic espresso making knowledge out to the broad base of cafes and their customers? I don't see the barista competitions as presently structured, resulting in that. Granted, there are cafe owners and workers out there who couldn't care less, and they are not going to be moved towards quality no matter what. But how about the significant percentage of establishments out there who simply don't know what is needed to make a decent shot and who might be able to be interested if there was an opportunity for them to learn?

If what we want to do is to improve the espresso that is out there, rather than having contestants in this competition figure out how to deal with the limitations of the barista comp rules as structured, why not instead have competitions and programs that have as their basis the desire to expand the base rather than slightly improve the top of a pyramid with a very slender pointed top?

That's my point.

ken

True there were more shops at that time. All I was saying is I thought it pretty easy to pick the "have to go to" shops. My point still stands that the ones in existence still have improved immensely, not to mention there being many more of them.

I hear your point. However I think it all has the start some where and trickle down from there. Yeah the top 2% of cafes (if that maybe 1%) are improving rapidly I think, eventually SOME of the owners and barista with enough passion in the remaining 98% will catch on. So what is this magical time limit? Who knows... Most I can guess will never truly understand. I mean I don't go to every restaurant and expect the world either.

The Barista Competitions represent a lot of hard work from a lot of people. Baristas, Barista/Owner/Competitors, shop owners, organizers, judges, volunteers, MCs, roasters, (many more I'm leaving out I'm sure) all those folks are coming together across the country in various regions to represent and sing the praises of high quality espresso. When you publicly knock all that work and dedication with a post like that you of all people should know folks are going to get upset.

Quality coffee will get to Idaho or wherever you are traveling one day. Just be patient. Either that or sh** or get off the pot and open your own place and show them how its done. ;) Come on Fox Caffe has a nice ring to it. I'll even help with a logo if you want.
David White
EspressoParts.com
User avatar
OlywaDave
Sponsor
 
Posts: 179
Joined: May 10, 2005
Location: Olympia, WA

Postby e61brewski on Thu Sep 28, 2006 12:11 pm

another_jim wrote:Instead of widening participation at these national level events, it may be better to widen the group of people paying attention:

Golf, tennis, bridge and a few other sports feature a very deep hierarchy of competition, so that people can work their way up from neighborhood level events to the nationals. The top levels are populated by pros; but everyone gets a chance to try and to rub shoulders. I don't know about golf, but most of these sports have ranking systems too, so one can slowly work up ones ranking by winning in enough local and regional events, thereby qualifying for the higher reaches. Rather than making the current USBC and regionals less intense, one could add a few tournament layers underneath, held frequently at local roasters or equipment dealers, where people can come, pay their BGA dues (even amateurs), try their hands, and add a few points to their BGA ratings.


that's incredibly lucid, and essentially a more detailed skin on the bones of an idea that michael m has already erected here.

this would also be a way to sort of compensate for increasing disadvantages, economically speaking, without going the "welfare" or "affirmative action" route. instead of a bigger tent, more tents!
LMWDP #044
ben.szobody.com
e61brewski
 
Posts: 26
Joined: Jul 16, 2005
Location: greenville, sc

Postby Nick on Thu Sep 28, 2006 1:16 pm

Jim et al.,

The more local activities is and has always been part of the goal. However, the reality is that out of the ten SCAA regions established, only 6 have had regionals so far. The offending omissions are: North East, South Central, South West, and Mountain. More local competitions would be great. However, that's something to work towards. The regionals are well-attended, but no so much that there has been a call for further dividing up the competitor pool. With the regional-national structure, having the interest for local or "district" type events would be a WONDERFUL problem to have... but one that isn't reality right now.

My issue with the original post has always been that to indict the competitions at this point is like yelling at a young sapling for being too small and/or being a failure.

Being more acculturated and familiar with the competitions and the surrounding environment, I have other ideas that aren't ever brought up. Here's one relevant example:
Question: When will the regionals directly feed the national competition? Right now, you can compete at the USBC without needing to compete at a regional, with (frankly) a theoretical advantage of being able to compete in the preliminary round. We've had a competitor who gave up their semi-finals bye for this very reason. The "open round" is how most enter "the system" of the USBC. If, say, the top six from each region are the one who exclusively feed the entire competitor roster, the regionals would be more important than their current more localized scope.
Answer: Perhaps that's what we're working towards, but it simply isn't feasible right now with 4 out of the 10 regions yet without competitions. There are two new regionals for the "in the works": North East and South Central, with the latter being planned for AFTER Long Beach (to lead up to 2008 Minneapolis).

My frustration with Ken's original post is that it was completely based on assumptions and his own limited experience and perspective. It's not very different from the classic coffee-forum post, complaining about an online vendor, without the poster actually contacting the vendor personally to try to resolve the problem. Ken, I'm sorry if you felt attacked, but words have consequence, and I still believe that you can't complain when your thread subject is what you made it to be. I, and others have responded with facts and actual experience, but you still hold to your "irrefutable opinions."

The competitions were never meant to be the end-all/be-all for coffee quality improvement. They are merely one endeavor among the many that both professionals and enthusiasts partake in. I've said many times that even among high-achieving baristas, competitions aren't for everyone. David Schomer's baristas are as detail-oriented and skilled as any out there, but do not participate in competitions. As much as I'd love to see Vivace baristas compete, nobody bemoans their non-participation... it's not for everyone. However limited in their scope as one might opine them to be, the competitions have become pivotal road-to-Damascus moments in hundreds of baristas' lives, here and abroad.
Nick
wreckingballcoffee.com
nickcho.com
Nick
 
Posts: 173
Joined: Sep 14, 2005
Location: San Francisco USA