By Alexandra LittleJohn
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE
Arriving at Palm Springs’ Omni Rancho Las Palmas ”or other high-end resorts ”for the Barista Guild of America’s (BGA) Barista Camp has become pretty standard over the past few camps. We are no longer the crazy barista kids in tents and yurts, making espresso by light from generators. No! We have elevated to a very sophisticated conference that promotes professional development of baristas. In short, we’ve grown up.
Arriving at the resort for the Big Western Coffee Competition ”which has been taking place for the last few days, continues today, and ends tomorrow ”is new ground for this event, making the regional gathering feel more like a mini-expo. This is the first time that the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) and BGA have hosted these two events concurrent at the same location.
The demographic of baristas that attend Camp are mostly new to the industry and here to learn how to make better coffee, align their skills with the SCAA standards, and network with coffee people that they admire. Pairing that kind of fresh enthusiasm with performances from some of the best baristas in the region across the hall, has created an energy that is refreshing and inspiring to both the competitors and campers alike.
On one side of the hallway, we have classrooms while the other has stages. Competitors are constantly wheeling their carts piled high with performance gear carefully around the campers. Brewers cup compulsory round and finals wrapped up today, with Akash Siani of Kuma Coffee in Seattle taking the Northwest Brewers Cup title, and Sarah Anderson from Intelligentsia Los Angeles, being named the new Southwest Brewers Cup champ. Congratulations to you both, and we look forward to seeing you vie for the national title at the U.S. Coffee Championships in Long Beach, Calif., in February.
Being so wrapped up with Camp and popping into the competition as I could, I decided to start asking the attendees of both events how they were enjoying the combination of the two events. To my surprise every person I spoke with was thrilled to experience everything at the same time. Campers were using their limited free time to watch the competition, chat with competitors, taste coffee, and learn all about the Brewers Cup. Prior to this week, many of the camp attendees didn’t even know that the competitions even existed, so the reaction to the performances were mind-blowing to a lot of the baristas attending camp.
That said, that my favorite responses to the question of the success of two concurrent barista events came from the competitors and coffee pros who usually only attend the competitions, and don’t really know about the Barista Guild, and really have only ever signed up for memberships to get the competitor discount. These are the baristas that were the most blown away with Camp, the campers, and their commitment to coffee. I had one attendee of the competition say to me, œThe BGA and the SCAA are actually giving out legitimate information! I want those slides, you guys are really teaching great things here. Not only are baristas who are new to specialty coffee learning from these competitors, but I believe the competitors, novices and veterans alike, are getting more inspired by the growing community of baristas and coffee professionals that are fostering better coffee through their own professional development.
Each one teach one ”specialty coffee is blowing up.
Alexandra LittleJohn is a specialty-coffee industry veteran who currently works with Equator Coffee & Tea. She is based in Los Angeles, where she delights in drinking amazing coffee and some serious nail art.