Yes, you read that right. There is a camp for baristas.
Every year, in the foothills of the El Capitan Canyon, hundreds of Baristas gather for four glorious days to take classes, learn from industry leaders and come together as a community. For some, the point is to win the annual 5k or the “Bill Wallace Trail Trophy” through various team competitions. For most, however, the goal is to gain certification through the Barista Guild by attending classes and passing a test at the end of the week.
As Nik and I arrived, we found our cabin and headed to the first class for our level 1 certification, “Customer Service.” Lead by consummate coffee professional Trevor Corlett of Mad Cap Coffee, we discussed how to provide a welcoming environment for our guest and ways to recover from situations gone wrong. From there we headed to dinner to meet our teams.
The team competitions were truly a highlight. The first night we competed in a jeopardy style trivia competition. The second night, each team was given 100 (fake) dollars and chose an owner, coffee buyer, roaster, and barista. With that money we literally bought, roasted, brewed and presented our coffee. I am happy to say, my team won this competition through sheer skill and good looks. The final night, we had to prepare a signature beverage using a randomly assembled bag of ingredients. Unfortunately, the generators went out before we could finish but I am confident my team would have won that one as well…
The most engaging parts of the week for me were the evening lectures. The first was presented by Peter Guliano, the SCAA’s newly appointed Symposium director, on communicating with retail guests. His well communicated talk lead into a period of round table discussions that got us all thinking about ways to make coffee exciting for our guests. The final night, there were two fascinating talks. The first was presented by La Marzocco’s Scott Guglielmino and was all about water. As the main ingredient in coffee, knowledge about water is fundamental to great coffee. Just after Scott’s talk, the reigning USBC Champion Katie Carguilo presented one of Aida Battle’s coffees processed eight different ways. This talk and tasting gave us an unprecedented chance to see the effect that processing has on a coffee’s flavor.
The whole event is truly unlike anything else and I want to thank the BGA for making it happen. I am happy to report that, by the end of the week Nik and I had learned a ton, made several friends and both received our level 1 certification. If you are thinking about attending in the future, don’t hesitate. You won’t regret it.
Brandon Paul Weaver