Our team brewing on a Bonavita Ceramic Dripper box on a Chemex for a team competition at West Coast Barista Camp 2014

Barista Camp 2014 — Takeaways

Passion is incredibly infectious and there is such an over-abundance at barista camp each year; it is an incredible experience. Barista camp always serves as an epicenter of passionate coffee people converging at one location to talk, drink, and breathe coffee- the smell of coffee quite literally filled the halls of the secluded Palm Springs resort that hosted the event.

If you have no idea what I'm talking about, the SCAA and BGA host barista camps to help educate baristas and coffee professionals on coffee preparation, skills, and fundamentals. For more info on the specific event check out their website here.

I have the unique perspective of being a previous camper and an instructor at camp- this past camp will actually be my 4th in attendance. Each year I attend camp I go for different reasons and for different first experiences. This year, I wanted to go back to basics and station instruct rather than lead instruct level 1 or introductory barista classes so I could be more hands-on and engage students who are either new or early in their coffee career.

Speaking of careers, it is funny to reminisce about my own personal coffee career and the struggles to even make it an actual “career”. The image I used as the cover illustrates the wide spectrum of people at camp in their coffee careers from new beginner to experienced barista to coffee professional.

Like a relationship, coffee is similar in context and is often used as a metaphor (even described as such in barista competitions, i.e. Alex Littlejohn ☺). When you first get introduced to coffee, you are enraptured with its beauty and allured by its simplicity and complexity. You start to get into a steady relationship by becoming a barista and getting to know your coffee’s family and history (i.e. seed to cup). As the passion develops, the romance blooms and everything is exciting and fascinating. You can even see your friends start rolling their eyes as you effuse about particle size or extraction yields but you continue to prattle on unhindered by their apathetic glances. At some point deep in the relationship, you decide you are ready for a lifelong relationship and are willing to commit.

However the “honeymoon” (i.e. origin trip) ends, the romance starts to fade, and the reality of the relationship starts to sink in. Finances start to get troubled and the relationship becomes more functional (caffeine) and burdensome (“Caramel macchiato, no problem!”) rather than fun and effortless. You start to question the relationship and easily forget the positives and the past; you ask, “What does the future with coffee really hold?”

Before this gets too creepy and I personify coffee too much, it is crazy that many coffee professionals can likely relate with some of these things in their career. Just like a “relationship retreat” (last coffee relationship comparision, I promise), my greatest takeaway each year is seeing the passion people have for coffee and rekindling that passion I have for coffee as well.

This is a difficult industry to be a lifelong member but I'm hoping my efforts among many other industry leaders will help trailblaze a path for other people following a similar path. Also, I believe there is plenty of optimism and encouraging things going on in coffee and I’m proud of our work @ProvisionCoffee to help establish a sustainable legacy in the industry.

Finally, I'll end with a random potpourri of thoughts specific to this year’s camp:

  • I apologize in advance for my inadvertent role as the “arms” supplier of the #churrowar at camp; my only intention was for consumption only and I apologize for any “collateral” damage inflicted upon innocent camp bystanders. I made sure after the conflict that our cinnamon & sugar footprint was non-existent by picking up any churros afterwards.
  • I wish I got to play around with those Black Eagle espresso machines but I wasn't sure if there were any with gravimetrics which I’m super excited to try out.
  • Assuming the resort wants us back, Splashtopia and lazy river is on top of my list of must-do’s at camp.
  • Ethiopian coffee was abound and plentiful at camp. This is my personal favorite origin for coffee and there were so many I enjoyed, although the SOE from Intelligentsia was my favorite. I think I took home at least 5 or 6 samples of Ethiopian coffees from different roasters.
  • Speaking of Intelligentsia, I always seem to learn something new when I hear Geoff Watts speak. He is incredibly knowledgeable about coffee. Geoff Watts and Peter Giuliano are two people I highly esteem in our industry and I hope my career can somewhat emulates theirs.
  • I also apologize for my poor impression of Emilio on Instagram as well for our barista camp competition. Hopefully he thought it was funny though. Numero uno!
  • I actually liked how barista competitions and camp overlapped this year and I hope they continue to do that in the future as I can’t always make it to the regional competition.
  • Random shout outs to people at camp (forgive me if I misspell or get names wrong): Devorah continues to be one of the most charming and interesting baristas I’ve ever met. BreAnn, winner of the barista camp photo contest, was incredibly inspiring and driven and I would be surprised not to see her on the cover of Barista magazine in the future. Selina is always positive and energetic, I couldn’t hope to keep up. Alex Littlejohn, amazing as always which is par for the course. As soon as I finished watching I knew it was a top 6 presentation and I’m glad the judges agreed for Harlin and congrats on the finish. Props to Perry for being a first time competitor and doing a great job. Special thanks to team 12 for breaking my losing streak and actually placing 3rd! There are plenty of others and I enjoyed meeting so many new people at camp.

Dan @flyingbluebunny

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