Barista competitions bring out the best within the coffee community

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.

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