Saturday, December 6, 2008

BBC Finals Evaluation and Comments

It's the day after and we know the total points. Melanie's 570 is a lot. It's always hard to compare with other country's with other judges, but it's very high. At a WBC this could be a final. But from what I saw there's still some work to be done.
I'm still missing some information, but it looks like Detlev and Peter trained Melanie very well. Out of nothing going back home with 570 points and 3 out of 4 prices! Congrats again. And to all those others as well ; the level has never been so high.

Now my thoughts on yesterday.
The performances of Jessie and Katrien I followed of course very careful. No big mistakes made. At first look it was all minor stuff.
After a quick stroll through the point sheets, two serious things I can come up with though.
1, the cups heater was so heavy all our cups were way too hot. On our Faema and on the Della Corte at Schuilenburg we had problems heating the cups. Yesterday though, we burned our hands. Judges were complaining about too much bitterness and lacks of sweetness. First I couldn't believe this. A medium roasted blend, blended after roast, with 40% washed Yirgacheffe, 40% Pulped Natural Cerrado and a modest 20% of Sigri to finish things off. Doesn't this sound smooth, flowery and mild to you? The extractions were all between 25 and 27 seconds if I'm right, but the cups ..... they were too hot ; certainly for Katrien. What else could be the reason that the same blend, grinder, machine - the middle one - technique and extraction time would give big differences in taste between Katrien and Jessie?

And 2, Katrien lost big points in her signature drink because she touched some ingredients with her hands!!!! I'm sorry, but what is this all about??? She took 4 vanilla stick as a stirrer and that wouldn't be hygienic? So if I understand well ; you may touch spoons with your hand but not another stirrer? Are bacteria running over vanilla and not over an Ikea spoon maybe? And then they took points of because she was decorating the drink with some chili chocolate crumbles with her fingers. Yes, it looks a bit tricky, but aren't all chefs touching their ingredients with their hands? Stefaan lost points because he touched the carrots he juiced? I think it's not honest. Katrien's sig drink was one out of thousand. Very wide, detailed taste with sweet, sour, bitter, spicy and creamy accents, it was well explained and beautifully presented.....

Then the new rules : points on taste. The first time I heard about the fact taste would be counting heavier than before I was a happy man, but now I'm not so sure anymore. And this has nothing to do with winning more or less points, cause I think at the end positions would have been almost the same, certainly for Jessie and Katrien. I think more about the point of view of the spectator. We knew Barista championships were not always a pleasure for the eye. Even for pro Barista's it's almost unbearable to watch a full championship. For this reason they changed the system for Latte Art, which resulted in a must see show.
With the new rules giving much more points for taste, people really get lost. In the past I was mostly right who was going to win, but not now anymore.
François Knopes his show was a joy to watch. Simul spro, one blend (very very close to ours and now as espresso of the week at Caffenation Hopland - everybody's happy François ; top class!) for espresso's and one single for caps and sigs, fantastic latte art, original and spectacular looking signature drink, great timings, great style, ... Although I couldn't see all the other competitors and also because I tasted his backroom shots and caps the winner was known to me. The best by far. His standing at the end : 4th place. What went wrong? A lot, but mostly in the taste. Nevertheless he worked simul spro, his shots were not close to one another and sometimes too short. The capps tasted not strong enough and the signature drink was kinda boring (in taste) ; mostly things you can't see as a spectator. So, tell me why I should go to see a Barista competition?
Melanie won the title and price for the best cappuccino. I think we should be happy to have her represent us in Atlanta, but how could she win a price for best cappuccino? Yes, she did nice latte art and yes she had contrast and yes they were good tasting, but what were all those bubbles in the crema??? I'm sorry, but cappuccino's like this mostly go through the sink at Caffenation. I don't know what happened and Detlev didn't understand it either, but it looked awful.
Isn't it thanks to latte art our product became so popular and can't we all, espresso bar owners, earn our money thanks to latte art? Yes there are dozens of other reasons (3rd wave) espresso bars do well, but out of all these reasons I guess latte art is the main one. Last year we already saw latte art fading ; well, these new rules are going to be the death of latte art at Barista comps. And wasn't this our most spectacular part in the 15 minutes show with a lot of cheering and 'wows' from the audience? Yes it was.
And if the taste is so important, why do we keep on wining on and on about the contrast and ring of crema at the sides of the cup? Does contrast taste better? I don't think so. Does contrast looks better? It's doubtful. We, at Caffenation, are constantly competing against one another and ask clients what latte art (design) they like the most. And what we see is that a nice leaf or apple or heart or tulip is way more convincing than contrast and a dark outer ring. So dear judges, if the taste is soooo important, why do you keep on giving so many more points for contrast? Or do I see this wrong?
To conclude this part I would suggest to continue awarding espresso's much more on their taste in stead of the looks, but keep the old point routine for cappuccino's, with eventually again the opportunity to the tech judges to check and reward crema quality in the cappuccino cup.

Final words to Simon (Turner) and his looks : I liked a lot your style and show in general. This was great promotion to you, your business and the Belgian coffee scene in general. If I see were you lost your point I agree with the fact that you forgot to put napkins, were too rushed and making to much mess, but I do not agree regarding your style. If I count right you lost 12 points for not wearing an apron and I think it's not honest. For Barista's and assistant Barista's I'm even totally against aprons or branded shirts. I'm sure it kills personality and creates a gap between client and Barista. For me you had the best looks, but for the judges the worst and I think that's a pity. They think it's not appropriate to wear sandals or not wearing an apron. 5 years ago all competition Barista's looked like Stephen Hendry at his snooker table ; I hope in 5 years they will all look like you. Keep up the good work and I guess it would even be possible you win next year, without apron, with a 12 points loss for this, but with splendid coffee's.

Melanie ; ik zal er in Atlanta zijn om voor je te supporteren. Tenminste als je die laarzen aanhoudt.
Oh ja, nog een laatste vraagje? Is het echt waar dat je je tamper overal meezeult in dat handtasje van je? :-)

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