Experience and Exposure: A Barista Camp Testimonial
I was fortunate enough to attend Barista Camp in Fontana, Wisconsin this summer, which was definitely the most eye-opening week in my two years working in the specialty coffee industry. Traveling from Ithaca, New York in the heart of the Finger Lakes, the setting provided by The Abbey Resort on the shores of Lake Geneva felt just like home.
Arriving on Monday, the next few days of Barista Camp consisted of 72 hours of classes, lectures, and general coffee geekery! Although the company I work for, Gimme! Coffee, has cafes in New York city, I work where it all started–in Upstate New York. Unfortunately, that means I rarely get to see the larger specialty coffee community and its inner-workings; we’re pretty isolated up here. Although I’d previously heard of a few of the sponsors for Barista Camp (Counter Culture, Square One) there were a lot of companies that I had not previously heard of that were represented, and conversely, a few people had heard of Gimme! but we were new to a lot of people, and this is exactly what makes Barista Camp so awesome! It is a chance to work and connect with people from all over the country who let excited about the same things I do: awesome coffee!
Barista Camp offers people the opportunity to work towards two, soon to be three, different levels of professional Barista Certificates. Since I was working towards my Level 1 Certificate, I took classes on the basics of espresso and milk preparation, coffee brewing and extraction, and coffee cupping. I’ve had two years experience working as a barista and a lead barista, so most of the information in the espresso and brewing classes was familiar to me–they are a part of our company’s training program. However, I’ve recently moved into a training position that serves our retail and wholesale divisions, so getting to watch experienced trainers do their thing was worth every cent of the price of Camp. The class I got the most from was the cupping class taught by Todd Mackey. Although I’ve had some experience cupping in the past, my new position requires me to run a cupping for our wholesale team once weekly along with mandatory cuppings at the start of each month with our entire retail team, so getting to cup with experienced professionals such as Todd and Mike Ebert was extremely rewarding.
Another awesome part about Camp was the opportunity to use all kinds of equipment that I can’t get my hands on in our stores. All of our cafes have La Marzocco espresso machines, so getting to use Nuova Simonelli, Dalla Corte and UNIC espresso machines and other awesome brewing devices like the Bunn Trifecta was a lot of fun, even if it doesn’t necessarily translate back to our stores.
By far, the best of this summer’s Barista Camp for me was watching USBC champ Laila Ghambari do her final practice run before heading to the WBC in Rimini, Italy. As a barista who is thinking about entering the world of competition, getting to watch a routine of this caliber was great.
Overall, I can’t express enough how much I enjoyed my time at Barista Camp. Not only was it eye-opening to see the industry as a whole, it also made me feel great coming back home to Gimme! and a team dedicated to making great coffee (even if two thirds of my department is 4 hours away in New York City.) Since my return, I’ve been trying non-stop to talk our store managers into attending this fall’s Barista Camp in California. Hopefully we will be seeing you all in October!