Wednesday, November 29, 2006

   from Nick

Instaurator's New Project

There have been rumors floating around for a while now that someone in Australia was planning a barista competition event to rival the World Barista Championship, and it looks like this is just that.

I can't say that personally, I really know how I feel about an event like this. On the one hand, there's the "more the merrier" perspective. On the other hand, considering the current status of espresso and where the craft is going, is this the sort of competition that 2006/2007 should be producing? How does it all fit in? Is etching really an integral part of this competition? Here in the U.S., are we gonna have to hear chants of, "Zoka-Zoka-Zoka, oy! oy! oy!?"

Interesting stuff. What are your thoughts?

EDIT NOV 30: The video has been removed by the user from YouTube. The plot thickens. . .

EDIT DEC 4: The video is BACK... now with the intro from Instaurator removed. Makes you wonder. . .


Anonymous Anonymous said...

just because sponsors will line up for it, doesn't mean its a good idea. maybe the opposite in fact.

11/29/2006 02:29:00 PM  
Anonymous steve m said...

It all looks very rockstar.

The intension to satisfy customers with speed and presentation seems slightly more important than the quality of coffee. Especially considering the amount of flavored milk drinks on display, though the latte art was admittedly very impressive.

I sometimes think the WBC, at a certain level, is more about the coffee used than the barista. It would seem this competition changes that focus.

But hey, if it raises awareness, and broadens the gap between speciality coffee and the usual muck? Cool!

How big do they want it to get?
What machines were they using?
It looked well organised and entertaining for spectators.

11/29/2006 03:12:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Deferio said...

At least somebody is finally doing something with the idea of a competition focused on a "real bar" scenario.
I feel pretty excited about it.

11/29/2006 03:12:00 PM  
Blogger Mike White said...

it looks like a lot of fun to me. are the priorities the same as the established competitions? no. do they have to be? of course not. there's plenty of room for another niche. i'm curious to see how it grows and plays out as they work their way across the scene.

11/29/2006 03:36:00 PM  
Anonymous RichW said...

No issues with promoting the freepour aspects and maybe not even the flavors (meh)... but the etching?

I don't think that's something most of us want to deal with on a regular basis for any number of reasons. So why popularize it?

"Give me a grande half caf skim no foam 172 degree half vanilla half hazelnut latte with a tri-colored pinwheel on top"

Maybe customers in Oz don't care if they're not getting their drink for another 10 seconds?

Still, we'd probably try to get someone from here to enter...

But Chris is right - it's more a real-life scenario. Maybe instead of etching they could have part of the challenge be calling out different temps, roasts and milks or something else that showcases good barista skills?

Or is that part of PF2007?

11/29/2006 05:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Mark said...

While the concept and implementation could use improvements, I think it's fan-freaking tastic, and has the potential to really open up the art of the Barista to those who matter most - people who normally don't "get it". Kudos to Inny and everyone involved.

11/29/2006 08:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Their is a huge risk of this type of competition becoming a platform for the big guys to promote themselves. One team event for major chains has already taken place in Adelaide, Australia earlier this year. My understanding is that if you were a good independant operator with a kick-ass team you could not enter becasue the big guys marketing $$$ underwrote the event.

This seemed to have great specatcle value but I did not see the focus being about bringing out the best in coffee... was this artisian or gourmet? I don't know - just don't know.

11/29/2006 09:10:00 PM  
Anonymous scottlucey said...

where'd the vid go!!! why!!! shoot.

11/30/2006 02:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Baristas wearing nascar costumes and etching patterns on their drinks.... Looks like nothing but fluff, and appears to be a good opportunity for Instaurator to chum up with some sponsors that don't have much of an interest in great coffee..

12/01/2006 07:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Mark said...

Nick, I wish you'd ditch the ability for "anonymous" types to make postings.

"Anonymous" - time to ID yourself, if you feel so strongly about your negative comments. Otherwise, there's not much weight behind them, and you can keep on being a chickenshit.

12/02/2006 12:50:00 AM  
Blogger Nick said...


You're not actually assuming that all of the "anonymous" posts are the same person, do you?

12/02/2006 02:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Mark said...

Why not make that assumption. All the negative posts are from "anonymous". All the rest, even some with some mild criticisms, are signed.

But it doesn't matter if it's just one joker or a few. Excuse me if I'm just so completely fed up with people spewing negative commentary on any subject really... negative spewing that I'm willing to be they'd never do if they had to put their real name behind the comments.

Basically, have the balls to back up your statements, or STFU.

12/02/2006 06:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mark, youre just so curious, arent you? It just kills you that you dont have yet another name to drop.

fan-freaking tastic? youre a freakin fan-boy, thats what. You love anything and everything that isnt from the USA. Youre so predictable it isnt even funny.

12/03/2006 11:36:00 PM  
Blogger Terry Z said...

And then silence............ That is some funny stuff. If only I had the balls to back up the Anonymous statements mad by Anonymous....... Oh wait ....Look I do!
I love it when someone else says what I'm thinking ;-) Saves me the trouble of actually saying it. Woot!

12/04/2006 08:33:00 AM  
Anonymous Mark said...

Yeah, I'm pretty sure who the last "anonymous" poster is. Not the same as the first three. Then he replies with his real name.

12/04/2006 01:12:00 PM  
Blogger blanco said...

excellent! real world. and judges. yes, you see, it's probably not just about speed.

those. judges. may. actually. judge. taste. (which equals quality? maybe it's just me.)

as for huge sponsorships, maybe instaurator isn't independently wealthy (or even if he is) and doesn't want to pony up all that money to launch something that is sure to get a lot of industry people sitting on their hands, i.e., taking a wait and see position. looks like he's a man of action. looks like this competition has a lot of action in it. for the customers, too. see the pattern emerging here?

so the outfits look like a nascar pit crew. don't you feel like you're in a nascar pit in the middle of the morning rush and you're trying to do as great a job as you can in as quick a time as possible? i'm no nascar fan but i saw 'cars,' and man, do those guys have to be fast...and good!

and maybe the etching's just their designer lattes they're doing.

and maybe, and maybe....

12/04/2006 07:13:00 PM  
Blogger MikeEFresh said...

Bottom line: the Aussies are trying to push the boundaries of espresso. Good on them. I may not agree with everything they are doing, but then again, there is no format that everyone will agree with. But it is nice to see someone at least trying to effect change. Here’s a radical thought, don’t like the Aussies idea? Instead of bitching (anonymously and attaching other’s character) about it, get off your ass and YOU plan and execute something else. To quote Mark: “Kudos to Inny and everyone involved”

12/04/2006 07:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Mark said...

My guess why Inny's part was removed (and probably nothing nefarious about it):

a) it was probably the most cheesy part of the video

b) Inny didn't want the focus so much on him as on the competition

I'm glad the video is back online though. I'm excited about this and can't wait to see where it goes. I actually think the biggest potential for showpersonship and "laying the smack down" may come from the American versions of this competition - there's just so much possibilities, and so many skilled people in the States who don't necessarily see the WBC / USBC format as suitable for their interests in coffee - that's not either a good or bad thing - it's just different. As long as quality in the cup, matched by a little flair, showpersonship, and excited consumers experiencing absolutely top notch espresso is all part of it, I can't wait to see it all take off.

12/04/2006 09:33:00 PM  
Blogger Terry Z said...

Mark said......
Yeah, I'm pretty sure who the last "anonymous" poster is. Not the same as the first three. Then he replies with his real name."

That would make you pretty sure, and pretty wrong, but thats nothing new. ;-)

I think the competition is a good idea, but I also think more outreach to the consumer side is needed.

12/05/2006 09:05:00 AM  
Blogger chris said...

Honestly, I see little if anything positive in this.

If I want "entertainment" I'll go see a show. If I want something that tastes amazing the last thing I want is cheesy costumes and cheering sections and fricking etching.

Pandering sell out anyone?

12/05/2006 05:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Kyle said...

I'm with Chris. If another format for competition is needed, it should be more along the lines of the "put up or shut up" model.

Etching? Uniforms? I'm sure many of the folks involved in the creation of this competition are well intentioned, but I think the public will see it as little more than an ego driven circle jerk.

12/05/2006 05:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Mark said...

Kyle, what gives the impression that this isn't a "put up or shut up" scenario, albeit in a pretty friendly way?

I ask this because of the videos I've seen of the event, it seems exactly like that - a throw down the gauntlet kind of event.

As for the uniforms, I'm certainly not opposed to them. I've never been a big fan of the "grunge as grunge is" look of the PNW barista scene (and other areas), I'll be honest (and I've written it in the past). I've always felt that commanding greater respect for the "art of the barista" is fine, but command it when the respect is earned - and if fine chefs have a uniform, if fine somelliers dress a certain way, and read your mind wait staff have a uniform, why not the top of their game barista?

Yes, it's look, it's aesthetics, and I'm not advocating wearing the white tails that the crew at Caffe Florian have adopted; but I think some sort of visual representation of "pride in my workplace" is not such a bad thing. I particularly like the look adopted by... what's her name - the woman who won the Norwegian barista competition last year - the look they adopted for her new cafe.

The thing is - it's in the cup. I totally agree. But (and very much IMO), if there's a want for respect level for the barista to continually rise, esp. amongst the unwashed (pardon the pun), looking the serious part as well as serving it is important. When I go to a good restaurant and get awesome food, five star food and service, that's great. When the staff are dressed the part making me feel like I've stepped into an ultra professional yet welcoming atmosphere, that's even better.

There's a helluva lot of ripped and stained t-shirts out there in the b-scene.

12/05/2006 06:24:00 PM  
Anonymous kyle said...

yeah, and the best restaurant in seattle is run by guys with tattoos, in jeans and t-shirts. so, i guess thats just how we roll.

12/05/2006 06:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Norwegian Barista Champ that Mark speaks of is Gunnhild Seljenes, not what's her name......

Mark, keep your five star experience. Chances are you would only complain about it later anyhow, ruining the reputation of an otherwise healthy business. PNW, and elsewhere barista's work behind bars creating coffee for appreciative customers. we will miss you.

Culture in coffee spans the world, creates community and strengthens the soul. Bring on the casual Barista, and leave the uniforms for the chains.

Personally I'm tired of your worn out opinions on the industry. You have never worked a bar, so how can you know what it is about?

So, Mark? When you gonna open this end all coffee palace. The best put up or shut up, is to do just that. Put your money where your ( and I've written about it before ) where your mouth is.

Let's just see how well you can make espresso "Just happen"

12/05/2006 09:19:00 PM  
Blogger chris said...

I'd rather drink great coffee in a dirty garage than mediocre coffee with people faking they like me and sucking up to me while rubbing my feet with frette towels.

I have a little more respect for the "unwashed masses" than it seem you do.

12/05/2006 09:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Mark said...

Let's see: anonymous: blah blah blah. Still the chickenshit with lots of opinions but no balls to put a real name to them. Yeah, I spew opinions all the time,stuff that pisses you and many off, but the difference is, good or bad, my name *is* associated with these opinions... the bad is, scared people like you can dredge up every thing I've said or typed in the past and throw it in my face while hiding behind your little anonymous fence. That's the price I pay and accept by putting my name to any opinion I post online. You on the other hand - whatever.

Kyle, Chris -PLEASE... I have a ton of respect for both of you - please read what I wrote again. It's not just a Seattle thing, or a Portland thing or about how one group or culture rolls. And I wasn't saying I'd take proper dress over quality in the cup. Not in a million years. Just as Chris wrote, I'll take great coffee in a dirty garage anyday over people "faking it" with mediocre coffee. That's not the point I was trying to make.

The best restaurant in Seattle, according to Kyle is owned by a t-shirt, jeans, tattoos kinda guy, which is fine - that's how he "rolls" as you said. But I've been to several absolutely kick ass restaurants in Seattle where the staff is dressed up quite a bit, but in the dressed up, efficient kind of way.

The criticism earlier in these posts was about uniforms and a kind of "meh" reaction. I wasn't complaining about tattoos or such. I was talking about the barista and how they are currently perceived in our society by the masses, the main public, and elevating that perception - the package - the dress, will do that. When you read some mainstream press about Baristas (like how Nick did in the reviews of Black Gold he read to the movie directors), you have various reporters snootily talking about "coffee snobs" and "grunge college students with an attitude" when talking about baristas. Yes, some reporters are totally coming along and focusing on the coffee and nothing else, and that's awesome. But I really believe if we want more to get on board this revolution of good coffee and espresso, and want to dispel the idea that being a Barista is a McJob, doing things like dressing more the part, and elevating the professionalism in the dress will go a long way to making it *easier* to opening eyes about what's going on in the cup.

12/05/2006 10:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Mark said...

I forgot to re-ask this:

Kyle, could you explain what gives the impression that this (the video and competition) isn't a "put up or shut up" scenario, albeit in a pretty friendly way?

I ask this because of the videos I've seen of the event, it seems exactly like that - a throw down the gauntlet kind of event.


12/05/2006 10:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The status quo should always be challenged.

In my opinion, I prefer the WBC format to this competition; although, I do see the validity of this competition format. And I completely understand why baristas would gravitate towards this competition as opposed to a SCAA/WBC sanctioned competition.

Again, I think they both have fantastic learning experiences to offer and we should not get into a pissing match over which one is better. Let competing baristas decide.

Kyle Larson

12/06/2006 11:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The status quo should always be challenged."

Eve said.

12/07/2006 09:47:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


12/07/2006 09:57:00 AM  
Anonymous JIm said...

My stale opinion: for "civilian" spectators, what could be more boring than the WBC format? It must work for the sponsors somehow. I just wonder if the ethusiasm exists in North America for an event like this. Is it just me or does it seem like the Aussies and Kiwis are a bit more nuts about espresso & coffee crafting as a whole?

I've enjoyed every competition I've been a part of, and I'd assume a team event like this would really bring our small Michigan comunity together.

And uniforms? I didn't wear my street clothes to the GLRBC. What's the big deal? A pit uniform? Who cares? Yeah, I don't want to wear a fuzzy Luwak costume, but that's not what they're doing. It's a team event, right?

If it's coming to Chicago, I'll be there.

12/07/2006 10:45:00 AM  
Blogger blanco said...

can't understand how some are all frothed up over "uniforms." who gives a crap? is anyone making fun of the nordic barista comp team uniforms?

personally chris, i wouldn't drink very much of anything from a dirty establishment. if what i CAN see is dirty, what is there in the back of house that i CAN'T?

be that as it may, the thing i like best about this comp is that, outfits and etching aside, it's the 'real world behind the bar' aesthetic that makes it for me. not the 'spend six months preparing to make four specialty drinks' aesthetic. i'm not downing the wbc format in the least. i'm just saying real world cred comes from real world do.

12/07/2006 06:45:00 PM  
Blogger trish said...

Zoka's not making a team...just wanted yawl to know.

12/21/2006 01:47:00 PM  
Blogger Phil said...

Wish I'd seen this on here earlier.

To clarify a few things, I live in NZ and actually went along to this thing (there were two, one in oz, one here), it was at our coffee festival, one day they had this, the previous day was our national barista comp.

They were 6 person (2 teams of 3) teams, NZ vs Oz, hence the uniforms, and cheesy team names (barista-roos, black cups). I'm not sure about the aussies but the nz teams included 4 barista's who have placed in the top 10 in WBC, plus a couple others who year after year have done very well in our national comp.

Obviously there were experienced judges there (some WBC certified i think), and quality was very much a key factor (NZ beat the aussies on taste almost the whole time i think). It was also a hell of a lot of fun for the audience (mostly made up of general public), and the baristas invloved (much plastic cup throwing was involved!)

My only problem with it was the lack of espresso (was all lattes)

1/08/2007 09:18:00 PM  
Blogger Phil said...

oh, and the etching was ridiculous, i guess maybe it needs more emphasis on taste and less on presentation.

Oh, and Mark, totally agree with you (weird feeling that) about the uniforms/standard of dress.

Probably 80-90% of kiwi cafe's would require all of their staff to wear at least plain black clothing, and in many cases a uniform. And certainly, we're getting to the point now where the public are beginning to recognise and place value on the barista

1/08/2007 09:24:00 PM  
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