Our trip to NYC: The Northeast Regional Barista Competition

Amber and I made our way to New York at the end of February to attend and judge the Northeast Regional Barista Competition.

This year, the judging criteria was quite a bit more extensive than last year. It all started Friday morning at 9 a.m. at the Dallis Bros. roasting facility in Ozone Park, Queens. Luckily, it was about 15 minutes from where we were staying. (Amber had an hour long train ride into Manhattan. She picked the short stick.)

We started out with an extensive written test: multiple choice, fill in the blank, and true/false. The test was revised from last year, and a bit more difficult. Fill in the blank was tough. After I turned it in, I realized I misread a high-point question. Oops! Luckily I did pass by the skin of my teeth.

After the written test, we had a triangulation test. Triangulation is where you have three unlabeled cups of coffee. Two are the same coffee, and you have to pick out the different one by taste. With 30 people vying for sips, it was a little squished and intimidating. I got four out of the six correct, which surprised me. We do not triangulate coffees in our cafe cupping, so this was new to me.

Finally, we had a visual test on the espresso and cappuccinos. They threw up images on the projector of espresso and capps. We were to grade them as if judging. You only get a few seconds to visually inspect, so you have to grade them fast. This was part of the calibration section where we try to grade on par with each other. I got 11 out of the 13 correct. It was a long day.

During down time, I chatted with people from all over. I caught up with a few judges I met last year, and connected with the Barista Guild North East Rep about putting together a latte art throwdown in New Hampshire. Boston just started monthly throwdowns, so I hope to attend a few of those.

A big thanks to Dallis Bros for hosting the training, providing us some great food, and sponsoring the competition. They have been roasting for more than 100 years, and they are still in the same building! You can see some pictures of their roasting facility on our facebook page. I parked on the block behind the roastery in front of what turned out to be a lamb and goat butcher shop. I was wondering what that bleating sound was! Only in New York.

I judged three people on Saturday. I have to admit, I love judging. The baristas put so much into the competition that it is an honor to judge them. The three specialty drinks were also very good. One was based on barley malt, one had hops in it, and the other was a mint jello shot with espresso. Now that I look back, all alcohol themes but no actual alcohol. On Sunday, I had to be available to review the score sheets with the contestants, but that was my only responsibility. Amber and I took in some sights, such as the Empire State Building and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was whirlwind, but worth it.

The word on the street is that Boston will try to host the competition next year. The location definitely skews the competitor list. Nearly 50% off of the competitors were from the New York
area. If so, then maybe one of our baristas will sign up to compete!

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