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A barista is a person who prepares coffee drinks in a coffee house as his or her
profession and especially strives to create the perfect espresso. The
barista possesses extensive knowledge on different kinds of beans and roasts and
has the technical skills required to master the espresso machine.
Baristas consider the extraction of coffee as art and they actually perform in
front of their customers each time they prepare an espresso, a cappuccino, a
caffe latte or a caffe mocha. However, if they wish for larger audience and
consider themselves as really talented they can consider competing in barista
competitions
. These events take place every year and they are held at local
and national levels. The ultimate title to win is the World Barista Champion.
The World Barista Championship was first held in 2000 in Monte Carlo and it
became quickly a public event where the best baristas from different countries
battled for espresso making supremacy. The World Barista Championship takes
place every year in a different country and the competitors are the winners of
the national barista competitions.
In the United States the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) hosts
several local barista competitions. There are ten regions, and each state has
been assigned to a region. Local competitions are sponsored by businesses, and
the winner of each of the local events has the chance to try to impress the jury
at the US Barista Championship. There are many barista competitions in Europe
and the United Kingdom. Canada, Australia and Central America also have barista
competitions at the local, regional and national levels.
In a barista competition the judges have to assess both the contenders and the
coffee drinks they make. The criteria based on which they score each barista
involve the quality and taste of the beverage, personal presentation, technique
and also the presentation of the coffee drink.
The baristas race against the clock as they are only allowed to perform for 15
minutes. They also have 15 minutes before the actual presentation to prepare
with every detail for the show - ingredients like syrups, chocolate sprinkles or
anything that you can think of except alcohol, cups, trays, blenders, mixers and
portable burners. Contenders even roast their own coffee and bring it with them
at the competition. After serving their drinks, baristas have 15 minutes to
clean their station before they make room for another contestant. The espresso
machines used in the competition are key to the taste of the coffee. The
machines must be left absolutely clean and free from any impurities.
During the 15 minute performance interval baristas have to prove their skills by
preparing 4 espressos, 4 cappuccinos and 4 signature drinks. Four sensory
judges that have to decide on the quality of the drinks sample each one of the
beverages. While preparing the beverages, the baristas have to present their
work, give details about the ingredients they used to the audience and also
treat the judges as customers in a coffee shop. One can only imagine the stress.
After the espressos and cappuccinos, which are finished with latte art -
complicate designs drawn atop the cup with foamed milk by using the pitcher, the
time comes for the signature drink. It is the competitor's original
creation and this is where baristas reveal their creativity and skills combining
roasts, syrups, steaming and frothing milk and using all sorts of ingredients
and flavours that turn their beverages into savoury works of art. The baristas
can spend even months to invent this perfect drink that can bring them the
victory in a competition.
Here are some examples of drinks that barista champions have invented:

Baristas train hard for these competitions, especially if they have the chance
to participate in the World Barista Championship. They try to bring to
perfection their technique and put together their program as during the
competition everything has to work smoothly, no glitches are allowed. They can
actually be compared to athletes rehearsing for the Olympic games as some of
them even have coaches that sometimes play the role of judges in preparation for
the competition.
Barista training
Well, perhaps after reading about the competition requirements it might be wise
to brush up a bit on your skills. There are several ways to either get basic
skills training as a barista or enhance your existing skills:

Whatever you decide to do, if you have a talent for making a great cup of
espresso you should consider entering a barista competition. You will meet other
people that share your passion for coffee and will certainly get some new ideas
to try in your coffee shop.