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What is a Barista Competition?

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A barista competition is an event at which people compete to produce the best espresso-based coffee drinks. Baristas, the bartenders of the coffee world, have to achieve a high level of skill in order to attend a competition. Several nations hold regional competitions yearly, with a World Barista Competition taking place annually since 2000. For people who enjoy coffee and barista culture, such a competition can be a very interesting event to attend.

In their working life, baristas make a range of espresso-based drinks, and may produce other coffee drinks as well, depending on where they work. In some communities, the term "barista" is reserved for someone who has demonstrated skills, while others refer to all workers in coffee bars as baristas, whether or not they have mastered the profession. While making coffee may not seem like rocket science, making good coffee is actually very challenging, and baristas are justifiably proud of their experience and skills.

The format of a barista competition can vary. As a general rule, each competitor is expected to make an espresso, a cappuccino, and a signature drink. He or she may be required to narrate each stage, explaining what is being done and why, to demonstrate competence and an understanding of the techniques which underlie the production of espresso. Competitors may be allowed to work with coffee they bring to the competition, or they may be obliged to utilize supplies furnished by contest organizers.

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Judges evaluate the drinks using a number of criteria. Presentation is important, with many competitions awarding extra points to baristas who make their drinks into works of art. The taste of the finished drink is critical, as is the mouthfeel. Points are also awarded for originality with signature drinks, and overall levels of professionalism and skill. Multiple judges evaluate each competitor to generate a balanced overall rating.

People who wish to compete in a barista competition are given a list of rules ahead of time so that they can prepare and familiarize themselves with the requirements and procedures of the competition. In some cases, it may be necessary to attend qualifying events to be admitted into a competition. Winning a competition usually entitles a barista to a cash prize in addition to formal recognition of his or her skills. People who win or place tend to be sought after as employees by coffeehouses around the world, which are eager to have their skills behind the coffee bar.

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Acracadabra
Post 9

@truman12 - I got free tickets to a barista competition back in 2009 and the arty designs were amazing.

I didn't see anything quite as unusual as those you described, but still they went a long way past the usual type. I think they call it 'coffee art'.

myharley
Post 8

I never thought that someone could actually make a living at making good coffee drinks. The coffee world has really exploded in recent years.

My sister started out working in a small local coffee shop. She even took some coffee barista training as part of her job. Until then I never realized how profitable this business could be and how serious it was for many people.

She does make the best coffee drinks though and has given me some good pointers. I still haven't figured out what I do differently, but mine never taste as good as hers.

I don't think she is sharing all of her tricks and tips with me, but keeps the best ones for herself, or maybe I just need more practice.

Mykol
Post 7

I really enjoy a great tasting cup of coffee and coffee flavored drinks. Many times I don't want to pay the high prices for these drinks, so decided to make them myself at home.

Since espressos are my favorite, I bought an espresso coffee maker that gets used every day. This has saved me quite a bit of money and I can be as creative as I want to be with what I put in my coffee drinks.

There are times though, that I really crave a coffee drink made by a good barista. Going to a barista competition sounds like something I need to check out in my area.

I could get several good cups of coffee and learn some creative ideas to use at home.

julies
Post 6

I used to think that coffee was just coffee and it didn't matter much where you bought it as long as it tasted OK.

All of that changed when I went to the Midwest barista competition a few years ago. I realized how serious people were about making good tasting coffee.

I was also very impressed with the quality of drinks they made and had never tasted anything so good.

Since then I am much more particular about the kind of coffee I buy at home. I don't feel bad spending more for quality ingredients because once you taste really good coffee drinks, nothing else will satisfy the same way.

letshearit
Post 5

I've actually had a chance to see a few barista competitions because the coffee shop in our mall would compete with neighboring coffee shops. Pretty much they would hold a competition every few months just to see who was the best.

Of course this was all in good fun, and the prizes mostly consisted of a nice gift card, but it was exciting to watch. I think the most fun part was that sometimes they would randomly select extra judges to take part in the competition, meaning you got to sample lots of great espresso.

manykitties2
Post 4

One of my best friends worked as a barista at Starbucks for many years and they held the occasional barista competition. It is actually amazing the number of drinks that the baristas have to know, and how much training they go through. Of course, originality goes a long way in competitions.

My friend was always telling me about the workshops she would go to to learn about the newest espresso-based drinks. It is really surprising how much training goes into making drinks. As far as I can tell there is no limit to the amount of ways you can make drinks at a coffee shop. It seems like someone is always coming up with something new.

JessicaLynn
Post 3

@JaneAir - Customer service is definitely an important aspect of being a barista. Unfortunately, being nice doesn't necessarily make you good at your job. There is a barista at my local coffee shop that is just so nice, but stinks at making drinks!

Speaking of drinks, I can see why presentation is a big part of a barista competition. I know it's kind of silly, but I feel like when the drink looks really nice it tastes better. The last time I went to my local coffee shop I got a caramel frappuccino and the barista left of the caramel drizzle on top of the whip cream. It just wasn't the same.

JaneAir
Post 2

My sister worked as a barista for a few years, and to my knowledge she never participated in any competitions. However, she did tell me that making good coffee and espresso drinks was not easy!

First of all, a lot of people come in with ridiculous and complicated orders they want exactly a certain way. And like the article said, there is definitely an art to making a good beverage.

One thing a barista competition doesn't test is customer service though. I went in one morning to visit my sister and I was impressed by how she knew the name and regular order of almost every customer that walked in! I'm not that cheerful in the morning, so I was quite amazed at my sister.

truman12
Post 1

My favorite local coffee shop organized a barista competition between their own baristas and some of the braistas from other local independent coffee shops. They had it on a Saturday afternoon in a big meeting room and it was a blast.

I saw a lot of incredible coffee making that day and drank some of the best coffee drinks of my life. But the event that really stood out for me was the drawing competition on the foam at the top of a coffee drink. Most readers are probably familiar with the way that good baristas will draw a little picture, a heart or a smile, into the foam at the top of their latte etc. Well this takes

it to the next level.

I couldn't believe the detail that some of the drawings had. One guy drew a picture of Obama in the HOPE poster that looked identical. Another guy drew a roaring grizzly bear. One girl did an amazing abstract swirl with lots of different colors. But the winner drew a picture of Abe Lincoln that not only looked exactly like him but used the creamy effect of the milk in a really cool almost surreal way. It was kind of like ghost Abe Lincoln and it was definitely the best.

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