I arrived thinking it was a joke. “The World Barista and Brewers Championships? Really?” To anyone on the outside (like I was just five days ago) it sounds like nothing more than a gathering to celebrate and reaffirm a perverted since of self importance. And that’s because to us, it’s coffee – just coffee.
It’s not “just coffee”, I’ve come realize. Besides being what any true subculture is, the world championships are a restless pursuit for perfection. A closely knit community of connoisseurs who are addicted, and have dedicated their lives to innovate new ways in which they can prepare and share a passion. Having both national and regional championship competitions creates an environment that drives this community to innovate faster. Not to mention…these events are also really, really fun.
Over ten-thousand baristas and brewers in 57 countries competed to be recognized as national champions – and only the 57 national champions were able to compete at the 2014 Rimini World of Coffee. These men and women pour thousands – yes, thousands – of hours into preparing their routines. Some even traveling half the globe to hand select and process a specific varietal that they believe will best exemplify the experience they want to create. But after all that preparation and training, just a spec of coffee grounds on the judging counter can have them disqualified.
There is immense pressure, but even more pride. As well as a standard of excellence and attention to detail that few aeronautical engineers may even possess. Whether it’s that the competitor chose to use water from a small natural spring in northern Norway because its low mineral content pairs more “softly” with his coffee roast, or to use 7ml instead of 8ml of water in their signature beverage because the room temperature is doing…something, the sensitivity to both product and environment to be witnessed is extraordinary.
7 of the 57 national champions competed using Ninety Plus coffees, which made it quite an exciting time for Joseph, Krisi, and I. Constantly were we running to a booth to talk, the stage to watch, and then backstage to taste the coffees, espressos, and other coffee concoctions. Of those 7 who competed using Ninety Plus Coffee, 4 of them made the top 8. And our friend Stefanos Domatiotis with Taf Coffee from Greece won the World Brewers Championships.
Simply put, I’m a lucky guy. After a quick pit stop in Serbia tomorrow for some dinner I will be on my way to Athens to spend a week with the new world champ interning. Hopefully besides some new good friends, I’ll also learn to roast and brew a world class cup of coffee!