I got the opportunity to experience something amazing--again--and I returned feeling very grateful and happy. Let me throw some generous info at you on this year's Barista Camp! Beside for telling you about the track I chose, there will be some info on the organizers of the Camp and its concept. All that with one clear plan to make the most people attend the next year's Camp, because it is worth it!
The Barista Camp is a European coffee event organized by [the Barista Guild of Europe][http://www.baristaguildofeurope.com/about/]. The volunteer-based organization formed under SCAE set itself a goal to provide the coffee community with interactive ways of learning while connecting the fellow coffee professionals and baristas of all levels from all over the world. Thus the Camp has made it possible that the community is partially self-educational, networking the relationships and connections between baristas, roasters, café owners etc, while enabling them all to follow an educational track of their choice, providing them with the option of a certification when passing the exams within their course. The Camp is held annually in summer, spread over four days. Different destination each year, the setting accommodates a large number of people attending while also managing the technical conditions to ensure a smooth run of the classes and their practical preparations.
Barista Guild of Europe is not a single-event organization only. Since 2014 the Guild has been putting together ways of interactive learning and accessing information throughout Europe and online. The second biggest event after the Barista Camp is the Co:Lab. Held in Prague in June 2015, the autumnal version is coming to Paris in November 17-18.
This year the Camp took place in Riccione, Italy, a coastal resort south of Rimini. The organizers have secured Hotel Corallo with its lobby and its neighboring building with an outside pool and turned it into a base camp of attendees. The large conference and meeting rooms were adjusted to serve as classrooms with an array of coffee machines, piles of cupping bowls, brewing equipment for hand brew classes, and lines of Marco and Bunn batch brewers. The Guild offered five educational courses of different difficulties and purposes. The courses were set up based on the educational syllabus by SCAE. Those classes are obligatory for obtaining a coffee diploma, the only official educational certificate, a sort of university degree!
Time schedule of the whole camp was worked out pretty well. There was enough time for everyone to check in the first day and get to know the surroundings with a moderate educational start to the Camp. There was always a period of time dedicated to practical skills training as well as question time with the ASTs. All the classes I took prepared me quite well for the practical exams, providing me with a touch-down experience of my tasting skills. The written exam was based on the materials given to us by our ASTs. There were two afternoons dedicated to self-study of this material. The classes were also divided by breaks for meals and the days were finished off with group activities. The amount of education did not feel overwhelming at all.
I missed the last year's Camp and was thrilled then when I was asked by my company, Five Elephant, to go to Italy as one of the representatives to brew some coffee. Obviously, there was no hesitation on my side! I chose Sensory Intermediate as the most suitable track for me to improve my sensory skills and to become better at describing the attributes I find in my brews. If you know what you are looking for, it is easier to describe it to someone else.
Sensory Intermediate was taught by three main ASTs, Lauro Fioretti (IT), Andrew Tolley (UK) and Patrick O'Malley (USA). I could not have been happier to have them as our teachers. To me Andrew Tolley is one of the most respected coffee figures as well as Lauro Fioretti, whose individual approach to teaching is something incredible. Their modesty, respect and treating everyone as an equal individual is a presentation of their kindness. The example they set proved them to be great teachers.
All participants of the course had to understand the basics of aroma and flavor perception, differentiation of coffees based on their intensity of flavors, cleanliness and body. To do so and characterize in our own words three coffees, in the quantitative and qualitative terms, was one of the practical exams. It was essential that we all were familiar with setting up a cupping session, protocols and the SCAA cupping score sheet. The basic tastes of sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami were characterized and presented in a form of solutions. Tasting different intensities of those solutions we got to understand where in our mouth each taste is detected. Recognition of intensities of two different tastes was also one of the practical exams.
This all must sound like a big load of learning and we did learn a lot indeed. The contribution of the Camp to my understanding of coffee is immense, but I can imagine the Camp charged with even more knowledge, more study materials and perhaps theoretical lessons. I absolutely recognized how big event it is to organize. Two hundred people attended the Camp this year, separated into five courses. My imagination goes as far as a week-long camp with a support of audio and video materials and reading materials, discussion panels and workshops on side of the courses themselves. Unfortunately I cannot compare this year to the first Camp in 2014, but I am sure that with time everything gets only better and the Guild works hard on bringing all they possibly can to the Camp. It surely felt like a great community event. Perhaps the most important was not only to pass the exams but also to transfer the energy between the participants, discuss our passions, ideas and experiences and learn from each other. And that went pretty well!
The number of amazing humans I have met is well over the number I can count on my two hands! The organizers achieved something incredible, they managed to motivate and bring their students to pass the exams, while also making sure that we thrive as a community of friends. The communication between businesses, roasters, baristas and trainers is essential to always progressing further.
So then we partied! Evening group activities started with a big communal dinner, evolving around group challenges, such as blind latter art pour, a beer challenge or a night beach run. The teams consisted of members selected from different courses, people mingled and had fun!
I loved it and I will do everything to come again next year! The only thing I really missed and is essential for the next run is a Photo Booth!