Sandy Bledsoe's Top 10 Camp Pull-A-Shot Memories
1. One of the most inspiring moments of camp was Peter Giuliano’s speech, proudly announcing that he is the first barista to become President of the SCAA. He stressed that baristas occupy an amazing position in the coffee industry. We are the last point of contact--where great coffees meet their final consumers. We are on the front lines of the specialty coffee industry and represent that industry to customers with whom we have the privilege of sharing beautiful coffees.
2. Leaving the bathroom on the first day of camp, I bumped into Chris Baca, who took 2nd place at the 2010 USBC. In some (deadly) combination of over-caffeination and celebrity sighting, I just sort of went for it: I practically grabbed the guy and shook him. I went on-and-on about how much I loved the Elida Estate that he had used at the USBC, and how we had served it a bunch at Comet Coffee and how much everyone loved it and blah blah blah. I think I creeped him out, but whatever, I met Chris Baca!
3. Seeing Vince Fedele talk about the coffee refractometer was really cool. We use one at Comet to supplement our taste buds frame of reference when we are tasting different coffees or exploring brew methods. Getting to talk with Vince after his talk was really enlightening. He was so nice and I really appreciate his scientific approach to coffee brewing. Everyone should understand the important difference between solubles concentration and solubles yield, and I can’t say enough about using the refractometer to better understand your product.
4. One of my teammates for the team competitions was Sean Kohmescher, Western Regional BGA rep. The second night, he and I made a run into town for some beer. We talked in his car about the structure of the BGA and how incredibly organized it has become, and how much work they put into it. Next time you see your BGA representative, hug and thank them; they work really hard for us!
5. Late that same night, I found myself in a conversation with Barista Magazine editor Sarah Allen, BGA executive council member Trevor Corlett, and coffee producer Aida Battle. We all romanticized each others’ positions in the industry but I couldn’t get over how amazed I was to be standing there. These people are so important to the industry; imagining a world without Barista Magazine, the BGA or Aida’s coffees is distressing. What an honor to have a drink in their company!
6. My Level 2 exam was a train wreck. The only other people in the completely silent room were coffee heroes Sammy Piccolo, Marcus Boni, and Scott Lucey. I was terrified! Scott was setting up to administer Sammy’s Level 2, and Marcus was grading me. My failure was apparent pretty early on, and I was so nervous that I couldn’t stop laughing. In spite of my shame, I left the room even more determined to earn my Level 2 certification. You haven’t seen the last of me, Marcus Boni!
7. I hope you’ve had the joy of seeing Jason Dominy’s video of Sammy, Gianni, and Ben dancing the last night of camp. We were all so excited about the last round of team competitions, and spirits were high. Everyone was crammed into one big room, and the music got cranked up. Everybody was dancing and being goofy. There was such a positive energy in the room and everyone was having fun. It was such a blast.
8. The closing ceremonies were bittersweet. The winners of the team competitions were announced and Level 1 certifications were handed out. I think over 70 baristas received their Level 1 that night, and it was cool to see everyone accept them with so much pride. The BGA council and SCAA staff worked around the clock to get all the tests graded, and some nights they went without sleep. I’m grateful for all the work they put into facilitating camp and administering and grading the certifications.
9. I rolled away from camp with my new friends, Jaymie Lao, Tom Baker, and Keith Mrotek. We stopped in Santa Barbara at a beautiful coffee shop called The French Press. A few of the staff had attended camp, and we met up with other campers from Cartel Coffee Lab and milked our final moments together. Jaymie, Tom and Keith dropped me off at the airport before their drive down to Los Angeles (for even more coffee adventures, of which I was jealous). I only got to spend a few days with them and the other baristas at Camp Pull-a-Shot but as I stepped out of the car I felt like I was saying goodbye to a car full of old friends.
10. I was afraid of missing my flight so I sprinted from security right up to the gate without putting on my shoes or belt. I rounded the corner and bumped into Jason Dominy and Daniel Thompson from Batdorf & Bronson who were waiting to board the same connecting flight to Denver. These guys had been really amazing during camp, and I had a lot of fun hanging out with them. Jason was already editing together some video he had shot over the last four days. We shook hands in Denver and parted ways, hopefully not for very long.