2nd Argentinean Barista Championship review + thoughts.

Between May 21-19th the 2° Argentinean Barista Championship was held in Buenos Aires.

After the event, it became clear (at least to me) that the national championships’ rules should be modified, in those countries where the barista profession is not developed, yet. At least the one that applies to the disqualification of any competitor exceeding the 15+1 minutes.

This year only 7 baristas sign in (last year we were 11). From those seven, four were disqualified for exceeding their performance time; consequently the remaining 3 baristas passed to the finals without taking in consideration their scores.
With this rule, it’s possible that a barista serving 12 crappy beverages (with no proper knowledge or techniques), could go to the WBC for his/her country.

It’s really essential that a barista finish his/her performance in due time, or that flaw could be solved with proper training between the national championship and the WBC?

In the barista profession, is really time more important than quality? Than passion and knowledge??

How is this rule helping the development of the barista profession? Is really helping the coffee farming communities to improve their livelihoods?

In Argentine there are thousands of employees making coffee based beverages, but only a few of them are real baristas. World-class equipment (La Marzocco, Mahlkoenig, Compak, Probat, Fetco, etc) and specialty grade coffees, are not available in our market, yet. The 70% of the competitors are home-baristas, just related with coffee for pleasure, and without time or equipment to practice.

It’s really better for these competitors, and their markets to have the same rules (at their local competitions) than more developed markets?

Are these countries really sending their most skilled baristas to the international competitions?

Ok, I know you want to read about the Argentinean Championship, and here is a brief summary:

The competition started last Monday at 12:00hrs with a brunch for the competitors, judges, sponsors, and media.
I was very busy at work (I’m still working as a Foreign Trade Consultant) and I had to rush back to the office when my lunch time was over, and I couldn’t watch any of the 3 competitors of that day.
When I left the office at 18:00hrs (as most of the people working in Buenos Aires), the competition was over for the day.

At 10:00hrs on Tuesday, a Latte Art workshop was conducted by Matias Lama, one of the International Judges. It was free of charge for the competitors, but only one of us could enjoy it, due to the time when it was scheduled.

I was the first barista to perform on Tuesday, but as was still busy at work, I could only take an additional extra hour for lunch. Within those 2 hours, I had my practice session, and my set-up/performance/clean-up time.
During my performance, I realized I was running out of time, but I decided to finish my presentation … I was disqualified.

My blend was specially developed with Establecimiento General de Café for the competition (40% peaberry Santos Brazil, 40% yellow bourbon Brazil, 40% Costa Rica Tarrazu, 40% Papua New Guinea).

My signature drink (Sting) still has the same ingredients: an Argentinean variety of Bishop’s crow red hot chilly pepper, a citric foam, and a cream made of chocolate, dulce de leche and honey), but the technique to make it changed, as well as its taste.

After the clean-up time, I had to rush back to the office and for the second time I couldn’t watch any of the remaining competitors.
When I came back after 18:00hrs to wash my stuff, the competition was over for the day.

On Wednesday I wasn’t so busy at work and could go to the Competition at 10:00hrs for the debriefing, which unfortunately wasn’t made.
The finals started at 12:00hrs. The first competitor was Sofia, who runs a very successful catering service. She got the 2° place.

Then came Maria, Exxon Brew Master Challenge’ Champion, and actual Argentinean Barista Champion (as she got the 1° place).

Finally came Gustavo, a home-barista who came 4th at the 1° Argentinean Barista Championship, last year. Unfortunately he was very nervous and exceeded his performance time.

I’ll be loading the finalist’s videos soon and the final scores (as soon as they are released).

Best regards,

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Comment by Fede Cabrera on May 29, 2008 at 6:22pm
I want to upload the videos of the finalist's performances at YouTube, but I'm not able to do it. Can anyone help me with this task (the videos exceed the 100MB & 10 minutes).

Comment by Fede Cabrera on May 28, 2008 at 2:51pm

Your're right I'm sure much worse things coudl happen within a developed market's competition, but as this one is easier to solve, an emergency plan shouldn't be difficult to apply.

Comment by Peter Tam on May 28, 2008 at 6:55am
It seems that they need an "emergency plan" for that situation. When it happened, find a better way to get the better competitors, as possible. Since it is not strict legel rules, it should be easy to solve that problem. In most cases, there are much worse things happened during such a thing, for much worse reasons.
Comment by Fede Cabrera on May 28, 2008 at 5:46am

Unfortunaly with the actual rules, the quality of the beverage was not take in consideration for the finals, as only 3 baristas weren't disqualified.

Comment by Fede Cabrera on May 28, 2008 at 5:39am

The problem is Argentine is that most competitors are amateur baristas or home enthusiasts (only 2 were pro baristas), that have the proper techniques but not the right equipment (or time) to practice for the national championship.

What I was trying to explain was, that some of those baristas with very little training (and the right tools) will be able to finish their performance time within their 15+1 minutes (they have a month to practice before the WBC) ...

Even if they didn't, what is more important for the development of the barista profession in an "in development market", that a national champion at the WBC finishes within the 15+1 minutes (with a crappy performance), or to make a great performance (even if he/she is disqualified)?

What I was trying to explain is that in some countries, where the barista profession is not developed yet, it could be more important to focus in quality than in time.
Once you have the quality/performance problem solved, you can focus in the time issue, which I think is an easier/faster flaw to solve (most of the disqualified baristas only exceed the performance time by seconds).

In my opinion, avoiding the automatic disqualification in the national competitions, will help “in development markets” to send their most skilled baristas to the WBC.
Instead you could still take 1 point per each second exceeding the 15 minutes, and the barista with the higher score goes to the National Finals/WBC.

I don’t think sending 3 baristas directly to the finals (without taking in consideration their scores) just because they finished their performances in due time, will be helping the development of the barista profession.

Hope to see you in Copenhagen!
Comment by Alex Negranza on May 28, 2008 at 12:43am
Thanks for blogging the Championships, Fede. I have enjoyed reading about the issues and struggles of a developing profession.

"In the barista profession, is really time more important than quality? Than passion and knowledge??"

Unfortunately, passion means nothing in a comptetion unless you know how to convey that in the quality of your beverage. Even the most passionate and skilled baristas I know of, were somewhat shaken at times during their competition at USBC. As far as knowledge, as long as you can talk about everything in front of you, that's all that matters in a competition setting.

Thank you again for blogging! Good luck at National Championships!
Comment by Federico Bolaños on May 28, 2008 at 12:09am
In my country, we have a very small and underdeveloped espresso market, professional baristas didn´t exist a couple of years ago and still are very few, but as you know, we held our very 1st barista competition this year, so I really understand your concern.
However, I belive that If someone wants to compete successfully with the best in a certain field, he/she should demand himself a higher standard...the highest standard, not ask for lower standards. Challenging yourself to perform as good or better than the top players in world is the only way to learn and improve to their level.
If different regulations are needed due to particular market conditions, maybe the amateur barista and cofee enthusiasts should participate or organize barista jams that incorporate an informal competition (with flexible/different regulations and/or longer competition times) that aims to educate and motivate towards moving to a higher level in the future.
Kind regards,

Federico Bolaños
Comment by Fede Cabrera on May 27, 2008 at 6:26pm
Thanks Dale, Nik and Peter for your messages.

I'm planning to visit Copenhagen to start the promotion of my project, and to enjoy the Conference (as I wasn't able to enjoy it last year).

I think I'll be signing in to the National Championships of my country, at least until I have one more chance to go to the WBC (I have an unfinished business).

The 1° and 2° place of the Argentinean Championship 2008, fortunately were covered by the only two professional baristas that sign in for the competition, and I hope they make a great performance at the WBC ... I just noticed that with the actual rules, we could be sending crappy baristas for our country, and I wanted to raise the attention to this before it was too late.

Best regards,
Comment by Dale Harris on May 27, 2008 at 4:11pm
Thanks for posting on this! It helps me realise how lucky I am to be in a country where the coffee industry is supporting and driving it's Baristas/workers to excel.

It sounds to me that a lot of work and investment is needed at a grassroots level to raise the Barista crafts importance in the eyes of employers and the coffee industry in Argentina if improvements are to be made.

Rest assured that if you feel this way so will other Baristas and together you may be able to encourage development before next year?

Best of luck.
Comment by nik orosi on May 27, 2008 at 12:19pm
Fede my friend, im so sad for this all, i was hopping for you to see again in Copenhagen but...
Its hard to be the first, not in terms of wining but in terms of beginning all, here is very hard to deal with all but there is a progress, remember, its not all about winning, its how much you learn from that specific or championship or 'issue'. Iv decided not to compete anymore after this wbc, after all, im 37...just dont worry my friend, live those 'boludas' to find what is real meaning of being a BARISTA!

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