another_jim wrote:Actually, I don't think Ken was trying to give you and the competitors grief; rather the grief is aimed at those of us HBers who follow the competitions. He's asking why we are doing it, and thinks it a waste of time in terms of us improving our espresso practice. The rest of us seem to take a more warm and fuzzy view on how knowledge spreads.
I made the original post in the context of this being a home consumer board with (fortunately) some professional participation. There are certainly many things us home users can learn from professional baristas, so I'm certainly not challenging that, although I'm not sure that these competitions are a particularly good way to do that. And, significant parts of these competitions have no applicability at all to home users, such as fancy specialty drinks and rapid fire preparation, something few of us ever do and if we tried we'd find it both humiliating and next to impossible to replicate after even a short period of our normal slow production routines.
In any hobby or interest, which is basically what home espresso preparation is for most home users who participate in online forums, there is a tendency to become groupies when the enthusiast level is reached. This is not my first enthusiast level interest, followed online, and I see the same thing with coffee that I've seen with other interests. Now we all like meeting pros and we all like to think we are being appreciated, and we all want to think that our enthusiast level of interest is getting us special treatment. I think this approach needs to be tempered with the realization that sometimes our interests will diverge from those of professionals and others in the industry, and we need to maintain a little bit of distance because we don't want to become shills. Those who are capable of independent thought will also realize that pros and people in the industry will have us around, or curry favor with us, as long as they sense they get value out of the relationship and not a moment longer. This is the nature of business, any business, and the way that any business that interacts with an enthusiast community will act towards the enthusiasts.
Like many here, I have received very kind treatment from a number of people in the coffee business, and I truly appreciate it. I have also tried to reciprocate, as best I can. I and they realize that the relationships will go on for as long as it suits us, collectively, and probably not a minute longer.
This is not to say that we haven't made friendships across the professional-enthusiast divide, and that these friendships can't be real friendships. But the basis of the whole thing is a relationship between businesspeople who value their relationships with enthusiasts because they think that these relationships will benefit THEM and their businesses. Period. And if any enthusiastic ("real home barista") reading this feels differently, you are deluding yourself.
The title of this thread has turned out to be, shall we say, "unfortunate." I was looking for something that would attract attention to my post, which was clearly (at least to me) in a very different vein than the title even though there was the odd element thrown in for comic value, such as the example of a signature drink made with Brylecream
I guess people have different senses of humor and it was certainly not my intention to offend professional baristas or the BG with the post, but rather to getting people thinking about whether the process is improving espresso in general. It might well be doing good in some metro areas, but I think if you were to go around the country you would find that the impact is limited for a relatively few metropolitan areas. And those of us not living in those metro areas, or not travelling to them, are experiencing the same dreck in the cup when we go to a cafe than we experienced before the competitions began.
I'm not looking to demean anyone's accomplishment, anyone who has succeeded in a barista competition (this includes you, Nick, and I hadn't really been following the recent one so I didn't realize you had won it--belated congratulations).
Internet forums and newsgroups are written media without the other normal aspects of communication that one would get were one having a real conversation. I think we all need to realize that, myself included, in that stuff one writes can and likely will be misinterpreted if it is at all controversial. The downside of avoiding controversial posts is that posts and threads become bland and boring, which makes people less likely to read them.