OlywaDave wrote:And where is Competition Judge Dan Kehn on this topic????
Since you asked, I don't agree with Ken's original assertion:
Ken Fox wrote:I travel more than most who will read this and I have seen no evidence, either from what I have experienced or from what I have read, that the likelihood of getting a decent espresso beverage from a randomly selected cafe is noticeably better than before these competitions began.
OK, it's true that there's not a lot of hope if one selects a cafe at random. That isn't to say that noteworthy progress has not been made. The espresso scene has improved in the Triangle, and mostly notably among those cafes that have engaged the online community and are active participants in competition. Did the competitions produce this change? It is hard to say whether quality-conscious owners / baristas sought out competitions or competitions bolstered interest in pursuing quality. But it's clear that a yearly get-together of 20+ competitors and 100+ of their supporters has more people thinking
about the topic of exceptional espresso.
As Jim pointed out, improvements at the SCAA convention are unquestionable. I've attended three times. The first time in Atlanta was a huge disappointment. Clueless equipment manufacturers serving espresso from tired boat beans. ESI and Intelligentsia were the only highlights of the showroom floor. The next year in Seattle was a turning point, with most credit going to the BGA booth and the rotating crew / blends. Then Charlotte brought the "power alley" of espresso with the likes of the BGA, Intelligentsia, Counter Culture, and Gimme Coffee within 50 feet of each other. It was a stroke of luck that brought these companies to the "less desireable" showroom area off to the side, which coincidentally was directly across from the barista competition.
In my mind, it's not a question of if
the competitions have helped raise the level of discourse and the standards of performance, it's only how much.