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Camp Pull A Shot 2013

Last week we sent our Training and Customer Support Specialist, Bethany Ezawa Kinch, to the Summer BGA Camp-Pull-A-Shot in Wisconsin. We are excited to announce she came back as a Level 1 Certified Barista! Camp is full of events and classes teaching baristas of industry standards, furthering their skill and knowledge of the craft. Read below for Bethany's reflection of her first experience at barista camp!

“Because great coffee doesn’t just happen.”

I love the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s tagline. It points to the discipline required to craft all great specialty food and beverages. Artisan — coffee, beer, wine, chocolate, cheese, etc. — don’t just happen; they are meticulously perfected over time with high standards, passion and a dedication to learning.

With this in mind, at Joe Van Gogh we have renewed our training and education efforts to provide some of the best specialty coffee experiences in the area. These efforts include sending team members for the third consecutive year to the Barista Guild of America’s barista camp, fondly known as “camp pull-a-shot.” For more on camp and a deeper look into past years, check out these reflections written by our Durham Store Manager, Brian Maiers, from 2012 and 2011.

I had the privilege of going to camp last week at Delavan, Wisconsin and here are two of many major takeaways:

» language

One of the biggest challenges I have as trainer and educator is communicating all things coffee with the right language. Whether I’m detailing the dozens of nuanced steps required to pull a great shot of espresso or describing the ever popular “stone fruit” flavors in a new coffee, it isn’t uncommon to need to hesitate, tongue-tied, and search for the right words. It also isn’t uncommon to find that my counterpart doesn’t have a clue what I’m talking about!

At camp, I was surrounded by some of the industry’s best, most experienced coffee educators. They knew coffee and spoke coffee. And while they communicated naturally and with ease, I took notes.

In the workshop “Introduction to Espresso, Part 1” Verve Coffee Roaster’s Alexandra Littlejohn used the catchy phrase, “the man, the machine, the grinder, the bean” to help us remember the four necessary elements in crafting good espresso. Coffee education is always looking for ways to help beginners remember the basics.

In an efficiency lab, Cuvee Coffee’s Lorenzo Perkins reminded a small group of us to more purposefully use clear language in our cafés to work more effectively. From line cooks to head chefs, the culinary world relies on phrases like “right behind you,” “coming through,” and “plate’s up in 30 seconds.” There is room for us baristas to quantify, time, and direct our work in the same ways.

And on a fun note, I tucked away more than a few gems coined by baristas from all over the country. Ex: lizard tongue [noun.] a coffee-burnt tongue, unable to taste or feel; numbs the barista’s primary senses for at least 24 hours.

» serve great coffee to satisfy great customers while supporting great producers

On more than one occasion, I found myself in awe of my peers’ passionate and relentless pursuit of not only great coffee, but also great customer experiences and great return to the coffee producers.

While camp was largely focused on educating baristas and enhancing their ability to serve the world’s best coffee, it was also focused on creating authentic customer and community experiences and environments. Dozens of conversations centered around community oriented cafes, creating unique spaces, and fostering relationships. It is beyond exciting to be a part of an industry that is yes, about business, but also about people!

And finally, what would specialty coffee be without the producers in places like Costa Rica, Tanzania and Sumatra? Camp concluded with a presentation that challenged the industry’s microlot trend. Microlots are small specialty sourced, high quality batches of coffee typically sold at a higher price to highlight the work of the producer. The assumption has been that farmers receive a larger cut for their stunning products. But research done by Counter Culture Coffee’s Kim Elena suggested that the assumptions are wrong and more must be done to create a more equitable and fruitful support system for our beloved farmers.

Overall, camp was one the most valuable training and educational experiences in my coffee career. I arrived most thrilled to learn, found myself amazed and soaking in as much as possible, and perfectly challenged at the end to remember and work harder for those who grow our precious product.