This past June we sent four of our baristas to Camp-Pull-A-Shot, to learn more about their craft and be among a community of fellow baristas. We are so proud they all came back as Level 1 Certified Baristas! Brian, our lead trainer, wrote about his experience at camp so read on to find out what baristas do at camp…

Four of us (myself from JVG Durham, Rashed, Megan, and Alex from JVG Chapel Hill) from Joe Van Gogh rolled up to the Mountain Lake Hotel a couple of weeks ago for the first ever East Coast Camp Pull-A-Shot sponsored by the Barista Guild of America. Camp Pull- A- Shot is three day event which offers classes and workshops giving baristas the opportunity to connect with the wider coffee community. Since that venture a few weeks ago, a couple friends and some regular customers have asked me with a little suspicion, “so what do you do at Barista camp?” I figured it would be a good idea to recap the experience to give everybody a good idea of what we were up to the week that other baristas were graciously covering our shifts.

There are two main draws to Camp Pull-a-Shot. The first is that it’s somewhat of a mini- specialty coffee convention where many of the top equipment companies and wholesale roasters sponsor the event, giving baristas exposure to new espresso equipment, pour-over devices, and grinders…oh…so many grinders, and also the opportunity to try coffee and espresso from roasters all over the country. The other focus of Camp Pull – A –Shot is that it offers BGA (Barista Guild of America) level one and level two certification track courses taught by experts in the coffee industry.

Lets back up a bit…who would certify baristas? and why would baristas need to get certified? The Barista Guild of America is one wing of the Specialty Coffee Association of America. The SCAA is a trade guild of comprising of coffee roasters (including Joe Van Gogh), green coffee importers, and equipment manufactures that is dedicated to improving the quality and practices of the coffee industry. Let’s face it – there is a lot of coffee out there and a lot of it is bad. The BGA offers educational opportunities for coffee industry professionals to improve their craft and thus improve the coffee and drinks that are sold every day in local cafes. Certified baristas have been through instruction and have been proved to be proficient in the industry’s best standards.

The highlights for me were a workshop on cupping and a lecture on the process that coffee goes through from “seed to cup.” The “Seed to Cup” lecture was extremely beneficial because it introduced me to issues like, coffee varieties, the challenges that coffee farmers face, and bio-diversity within coffee growing regions- all of which I previously only had a passing knowledge. Like my last trip to camp in October, I thoroughly enjoyed geeking out with the other baristas by messing with different espresso doses and grind settings in our espresso work shop. As a trainer at Joe Van Gogh, I find it really helpful to go through more training like the kind that is offered at SCAA events. Not only do I learn a lot, but I also learn a lot about instructing. I like observing how expert trainers present information and try to incorporate it into how I explain things to people.

In between the nightly team competitions and planned activities, there was plenty of good conversation and good coffee to be had. The Mountain Lake Hotel, where the event took place, is located in the beautiful Virginian mountains and boasts its place in cinematic history as the main film location of Dirty Dancing! Camp Pull- A – Shot, once again, was energizing, fun, and thoroughly informative toward improving the craft of preparing excellent coffees.