9 May 2014

The Amsterdam Coffee Festival and the Importance of a Good Presentation

It was a coffee filled weekend last week. The very first ever Amsterdam Coffee Festival took place, and it was as fun as it was exhausting. There was a lot of coffee to be drunk, lab talks to be heard and coffee competitions to be seen. Check out some photos here. Unfortunately I did not get to experience all of it, but luckily I did get to experience some parts to a bigger extent than others.

I gave a lab talk about how to create a successful coffee training, shadow judged my way through the day and spent a lot of time backstage coaching my friend Belle to a perfect latte art run, despite of her broken sitting bone, bleeding heels and stuck zipper. She placed second runner up and I could not be more proud...or more knackered...
Belle's rocking run

One thing that I did get to see up close was the Dutch Barista Championship. And after a week of reliving and rethinking all the runs, I see a lot of connections with what I presented during my Lab talk. How?

The Barista Championships are all about presentation. What is the story you want to tell to the judges? For those who do not know; the Barista Championship gives competitors 15 minutes to present 4 espresso, 4 cappuccino and 4 self designed signature drinks. This sounds simple enough, however competitors need to think about the coffee they want to present, what milk to use, what signature to design that complements the beans that they chose. And all that needs to tie into their presentation. What do they say when is a big part of it, together with their physical presentation. However, to attain all the possible scores, they have to make sure that they give a good presentation to the judges. 
The score sheets are designed in such a way that, not only the actual presentation get points, but that scores for the espresso, cappuccino and especially the signature get scored higher when these are well thought out, introduced and explained during the run. If the competitor does not explain this, then he or she will not be able to achieve full scores.

my lab talk
Why this coffee? Why this signature? Why does this signature work with this coffee bean? What is the barista trying to achieve during his or her 15 minute run? What ties it all together? 
This is exactly what I talked about during my Lab talk. During a training or a presentation it is essential to have a goal. What is it you want your trainees to remember? What do you want them to walk away with? Everything you do during your presentation needs to tie in with this goal. And, most importantly, for a successful presentation, you need to introduce your goal and summarise the goal and the steps you took to get there in the end.

Most people do remember to introduce their goal, however most forget to mention the steps towards that goal, or close off their presentation in the end. Basically, you, as a presenter have to consistently ask yourself why?

As presentation is such a big part for the Barista Championships, it is something competitors need to think about. Why? Why these coffee beans? Why this signature? Why these ingredients? Why not others? Why are the ingredients prepared in a certain way and not another?
If you leave the judges with a 'why?' without an answer, you cannot win.

Successful World Champions always answer these questions during their run. And in doing this, they provide the judges with all the tools they need to score the run. And unfortunately I often missed this during the Dutch Championships.

Sometimes the links were there, but they were not said out loud. For example, using a Jasmin tea in the signature. I am assuming because one of the flavour descriptions of the coffee used was Jasmin tea. However, this link was never mentioned out loud. Points cannot be given on assumption. 
I do have to say that all though the barista in the example failed to mention this link, he was the only one who actually closed off his 15 minute run in stead of just ending it, so props for that.

Sometimes a link was made, but one was still left with a why? Chocolate was a popular ingredient this year, used twice in different runs. One competitor did not explain what the chocolate did at all. The other did, mentioning it strengthened the freshness and chocolate notes of the coffee. We got to know it was a single origin chocolate, however, what origin it had, or why this chocolate and not another, remained a mystery. Yet, I am sure that both competitors, professional as they are could name multiple reasons why this specific chocolate and not a different one.

After all this, I do have to mention I have so much respect for all those competing. Building a successful and well structured and explained presentation is not easy, and it's not like they have nothing else to think about. From the big "what coffee to use", to the small "what spoon fits the layout the best", there are always more than enough decisions to make. 
But perhaps all those decisions are a little bit easier if a goal is chosen, and every decision that is made is a stepping stone in that overarching goal, tying everything said and done together, into a perfect round 15 minute run.

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A short shout out to all the Dutch Champions!

Dutch Barista Champion Coen van Sprang, I loved the concept of the signature. Trying to add back all the flavours lost during the processing at the farm was genius. You can see his run again on the world stage in Rimini in June of this year.

Dutch Latte Art Champion Esther Maasdam. National champion 4 times in a row is amazing and speaks to your talent of latte art, but also to your skill of performing a perfect competition run.

Jose Mollura, Dutch Coffee in Good Spirits Champion. Read about his run in a previous blog. Your presentation skills and how you carry yourself on stage just suck everyone into your story.

The others, I unfortunately did not have the time to see. But I am sure that they are as inspiring as those mentioned above;

Bjorn Aarts, Dutch Roasting Champion (Dutch Barista Coffee)
Friso van der Mei, Dutch Brewers Cup Champion
Yoeri Joosten, Dutch Cuptaster Champion (Boot Koffie)

Congrats and make us Dutchies proud on the world arena.

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