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United States Coffee Competition - Kansas City February 2016

Dispatch by Barista and Trainer Matt Foster

Two weeks ago was my second time competing in a regional Brewer’s Cup competition, and many things were very much like my first time competing. Familiar things like late nights spent alone and with fellow competitors securitizing every detail of our presentations, running all over town and the internet to find wares, reciting our speeches out loud often enough that our family, friends and pets have it memorized, and enduring caffeine induced sleepless nights counting how many times we’ve counted the coffee beans we see when we close our eyes.

Everything else however, was much different. Last time I was able to choose my coffee, brew method and presentation from the start and work for months on them. This time I switched coffees and my theme 2 weeks out from the competition and used a brew method I didn’t plan on. These shook me at first, but thankfully we were a great team and had a terrific coach in David Fasman, so in the end I really felt confident in my recipe and performance.

Competition is great for a number of reasons, and I enjoy most all of them. First, it’s great to just see, and most of the time taste, what others in the industry are doing. I like stepping out of my usual tasting circle since it helps keep my mind open to what’s possible to create. Second, if anyone is looking to improve their skill set competition is the way to go. The whole process from spending so much time with a specific coffee, creating a presentation, and getting regular feedback from your teammates is all tailored to making you a better coffee professional. It’s a trial by fire for sure, but when you come out on the other side, you’ll find you’re miles ahead from where you started. The level of skill and knowledge at competition is so high that you have no choice but to raise yourself to that level as well if you want to stand a chance. Last but not least, the opportunity to perform and represent yourself and a company you believe in is pretty great. Comparisons to the Olympics have been drawn before and I think it’s still pretty applicable.

My first time competing I didn’t do as well as I would have hoped. At the time this was difficult because so many of my coworkers and friends in the industry have been able to go out and place high on their first attempts. I envied them, but I also knew it was my own doing. I chose to surround myself with those I think/know are better than me because I hoped to learn from them. This year I qualified to go on to the national competition, so hopefully that means I’m doing something right. Either way, I couldn’t be happier or more eager to see what’s next.

Matt Foster competing in the Brewer's Cup.

David Hall competing in the Barista Competition.

Andrew McCaslin competing in the Barista Competition.


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