Jacque DesMarais is Kaldi's Coffee retail coffee trainer and competed for the third year in the United States Barista Competition. She placed 2nd at this year's regional event held in Kansas City earlier this year.
The first day of USBC always seems more like a family reunion than the start of a hectic week of competitions/trade show. There is nothing better though than walking into a room of friends on the first day there. As always, it was another year of learning and developing my skill both as a barista and trainer.
My competition experience has evolved over the years into a very methodical but relaxed preparation once I get to the convention center. I enjoy watching competitors and try to stay as relaxed and ahead of what needs to be done as I can. The atmosphere of the prep room has changed over the three years I've been competing as well. The prep room is the room that all the competitors share to prepare for the competition and is full of dishes, cups, coffee, and grinders. Three years ago this room was very tense with each competitor tending to their own things. It has evolved into a room where people are sharing ideas, helping polish dishes, and helping taste one another coffees. The entire competition is more warm and welcoming as a whole which I think says a lot about where our industry is going.
The competitions are important because they teach you specifics on what you can improve in your skill set. This gives me an opportunity to take what I learn back to our teams in St. Louis and share my knowledge with them. This is by far one of my favorite things about the competitions. It gives me a very tangible list of things that we can do better while making coffee and communicating. They are also very important for our industry and the growth of it. Most people don't know what a barista is, let alone that we have national and world competitions. A large part of competing is to grow the recognition of the industry. As coffee prices continue to rise we are faced with the task of becoming better educators. Competition gives us the opportunity to learn more about all aspects of the industry to past that down to our baristas and guests.
David Fasman is a lead barista at Kaldi's Coffee DeMun Ave cafe and recently competed in the United States Barista Competition held in Boston April 11-14. David placed 3rd in the regional competition before competiting in the national competition in his first year. This is his recap of the experience in Boston.
Two 20 foot doors in the back of the Boston Convention Center parted and opened up to an airplane hanger sized room. The first thing I saw was a massive sign, hanging from the ceiling, that read "United States Barista Championship." I had arrived. This was my first year competing in the USBC, and at first sight the room was pretty intimidating. But the intimidation subsided quickly as familiar faces from the Big Central Regional Barista Competition held in Kansas City, MO earlier in the year started to show themselves. I began to unpack my wares and set up my table in the prep area. As I organized and polished, more familiar and new faces trickled into the competitor area. Within a couple of hours, the prep area was full of people unpacking, polishing, and organizing. I quickly realized that I was surrounded by a community. It is a community of baristas that are spread out nationwide but are incredibly close and supportive of each other.
The existence of this community was one of the most important realizations that I took away from USBC. It is great to know that there is a dedicated group of individuals whose primary goal is providing the most exceptional coffee experience possible. And this does not just refer to the act of making good coffee, but also how to provide a total experience. Meaning, how to educate and best serve the consumer. With each conversation I had, I was exposed to new concepts and paradigms about coffee. I left with my own new paradigm, one that champions the barista as the primary educational tool for coffee shops. A barista is on the front lines of education. It is our job to ensure that each customer leaves with a better understanding of coffee than they had when they arrived.
I also left with an understanding of why competitions and the annual convention and symposium are so important. They are a place where ideas about coffee can be shared through the entire production and distribution line. There are a few thousand producers, processors, exporters, importers, roasters, equipment companies, and baristas all in the same place at the same time. I honestly cannot think of any other time where all of us can get together and share ideas on such a large scale. It's pretty incredible.
Everything I learned and discovered in Boston I can take back to Kaldis with me; from new training methods to creative customer service models. The SCAA Annual Event and USBC changed the way that I view our industry and understand coffee. And at the most basic level, it gave me an incredible amount of drive to get better at what I do. Being a part of USBC and BCRBC was an honor and I am grateful for being given the opportunity to do so.
Just after finishing my routine, there were two thoughts that went through my head. First, how happy I was going to be back at DeMun behind the bar with my fellow baristas and customers. Second, how much I learned from this years competition season and how I can improve for next years. I look foreword to the prospect of another incredible ride.
It's an extemely exciting time of year for coffee. We've cupped dozens and dozens of samples over these past few months sorting through offer samples from all over Central America and parts of Africa. The results are going to be some of the best coffees we've ever carried. The next coffee we are featuring for World Tour is the Mexico Coatepec.
This part of the country has always been an agricultural basket with ample water, good soils and cool nights at the foot of the mountains.
Producers in this part of Mexico have an average of 4 acres of land and deliver red cherries to the mills in town. The coffees from this region can have rich milk chocolate and caramel notes and good acidity
Sunday April 28, 2013
8:00 AM to Noon
Come one, come all
Meet fellow teammates
Bring friends or family - they may want to join
2013 is our year to reach $1,000,000 in aggregate donations
Meet at Kaldi’s in Chesterfield Valley
17211 Chesterfield Airport Road, Chesterfield, MO 63005 (I-64 to Boone’s Crossing exit, south to Chesterfield Airport Road, left 1 block to Kaldi’s)
(8:00 – 9:30AM) Meet teammates - returning & new over morning coffee
(8:30 – 9:30AM) Register for the 2013 BikeMS (Sept 7 – 8, 2013)
More than 75 teammates have already registered
BikeMS staff will be on hand to register you on the spot, if you wish.
Special registration discount offered at this ride
Check, credit card or cash accepted
(8:00 – 9:30AM) Bike Stuff
Big Shark West (5 doors west of Kaldi’s) will be open at 8:00 AM to support our riders
Free bike safety checks - teammates Tom, Phil, Stew & Kelly will be available – if you discover problems
Let’s ride at 9:30 (a helmet is required on the ride)
Two routes, (a) 20, (b) 25 miles; one or the other, or together to 45
No formal SAG, but phone #’s will be on the maps in case there are problems
Each rider should carry a tube, pump, etc. on their bike
Post-ride – Cold refreshments will be available
Help us kick off our MILLION DOLLAR YEAR!