Each year I look forward to Coffee Championships. The excitement, the anxiety, the fun, the nerves! After 4 years of competing, and winning 2 US Championships, I decided to step out of the competition arena…but not too far out. This year I’ve been having the pleasure of coaching Jessica, our Klatch San Dimas Store Manager, in brewers cup. Our first stop was Knoxville, Tennessee for the qualifying event.
Stepping out to coach Jess also gave me time and the opportunity to support judges in pre-event calibration as well as be a guest judge at the event. Moving to the other side of the table gave me a new perspective.
As a competitor who has both done really well and really terrible in competition, it is easy to blame the judges. I’ve heard it said “the judges weren’t well calibrated”. Being the one who brewed coffee for the judges to calibrate with and be involved in the conversations around calibration, I now have the first hand experience to say they work hard to get calibrated. As the judges calibration day progressed I felt excited for the competitors that these where going to be the judges for the weekend. it was great to see the team of judges get closer together in scores and have great conversations of the difference in flavor nuances such as apricot vs nectarine.
Then, I got to sit in an guest judge. As a past competitor I had a vision as to how I approach competition but quickly learned the vast differences from competitor to competitor. Though having to follow the same rules, each competitor comes to the competition with their own unique story, their own way of brewing, and some amazing coffees to share. I tell you, those judges have such a hard job drinking delicious coffees all day long.
After guest judging four competitors, though I absolutely wanted Jess to win, I was slightly torn because I wanted each of these competitors to win as well. I’ve always heard how judges want everyone to do well and it’s absolutely true. After each competitor you feel a connection to that person but also to their coffee.
I walked away with a deeper appreciation for competition as a whole. Having past appreciation as a competitor, a new appreciation from the judges seat and as a coach, and overall seeing competition with this new perspective. Sitting back, watching the excitement, the anxiety, the nerves from each competitor while being involved in the fun.
At the end of the weekend, Jess took third place! Woo! What a great accomplishment and a reward for the hard work she put in for preparation.
What’s next? We are deep into preparations for the US Brewers Cup Competition coming in April, continuing to coach Jess and very excited to see her continue to evolve both as a brewer and as a competitor.