...A report from the grounds, so to speak.

You may not be aware of it, but there is a guild for those who prepare your lattes, cappuccinos, and mochas. The Barista Guild of America is the part of the Specialty Coffee Association of America devoted to the professional development of baristas. I was fortunate to be sent out to the gorgeous El Capitan Canyon Campground in Santa Barbara, Calif. by Joe Van Gogh to participate in the BGA’s annual Camp Pull-A-Shot.  When I heard about the “camp,” I envisioned it in a hotel or conference center and that “Camp Pull-A-Shot” was just a cute name. This illusion was dashed, however, when I saw a sign posted on the camp bathroom that gave detailed instructions on how to fight off an attack from a mountain lion. The BGA doesn’t play around! Camp Pull-A-Shot is an opportunity for baristas to glean knowledge from some of the country’s most knowledgeable baristas, trainers and coffee industry folks. Those who attended exchanged ideas and information, arming themselves with knowledge to take back to their local shops and businesses.  In addition to informative courses, I had the opportunity to play around with top-of-the-line equipment and to try coffee from roasters from all over the country that sponsored the event. As you might expect, the camp wasn’t all instruction and coffee geekery. Like all camps, the nights at Camp Pull-A-Shot included hanging out, making s’mores, and holding (coffee-themed) relay races. The classes offered covered topics such as: espresso extraction, customer service, trends in the coffee industry, equipment maintenance and developing sensory (taste) skills. I learned a lot about the science of coffee extraction and how to pull the perfect shot of espresso. For example, the SCAA proscribes guidelines for how espresso should be properly prepared: Good espresso should be dosed at the proper amount, ground to the correct grind size and brewed at the correct temperature. Within these parameters, however, adjustments can be made to accommodate the flavor of the espresso. It was fun to see how different espressos tasted under different conditions. I am most interested in applying the knowledge that I gained towards improving the quality of my drinks for the customers in the shops. Brian Maiers Lead Barista, Durham