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Reports From the Road
Gearing up for the WBC...
Author: Mark Prince
Posted: May 18, 2006
Article rating: 7.6
feedback: (6) comments | read | write

Once again, before getting into the report, I'd like to acknowledge and thank Rocket Coffee Roasters for being the premier sponsor of all this content. Excellent coffee from these guys, give them a try!

Rocket Coffee Roasters

Dateline, Bern, May 18, 2006, 9:20am

Poor Dave Makin, Australia's Barista champion.

Woke up this morning to discover that David is missing his roasted coffee. Why?

According to Luca, one of CoffeeGeek's moderators,

Apparently this morning (Dave Makin) and Peter Wolff decided to risk the hotel superauto coffee at their hotel in Bern. Of course it wasn't great, but they were pretty damned impressed. So they asked where it came from and were told that apparently some Australian roastery had sent the hotel a whole bunch of sample coffee...

OK, so which hotel opens up stuff addressed to their guests and then runs ALL of their WBC blends through their superauto?!

Poor Dave; half of his signature drink gear smashed at the state competition, his luggage went missing for half a day, making him miss his practice session at the nationals and now this!

Can't wait to see how he performs!

Wow. Just a shocking set of circumstances. How the heck is the hotel going to make up for this - even if they bend over backwards, give Dave and crew free rooms, whatever, they better offer to cover the cost of overnighting 5 or 10 kilos, or something! What kind of hotel opens up guests' packages like that?

Dateline, Bern, May 18, 2006, 11:20am

Click for larger image

Sitting at an amazing cafe (for the culture and scenery, not necessarily for the coffee) called kornhaus cafe here right in the old part of bern - there's gotta be at least 200 or more chairs at the outside portion of this cafe. I've spent the morning updating the site, catching up on email (a lot - maybe I should be putting an auto-reply, "I'm away" message on my emails), and now I'm just waiting for Andrew Barnett to show up.

Bern's a very compact city, so walking almost everywhere is easy to do. Andrew's hotel is only a few blocks away from my own, and it took me only five minutes to get here.

As I talked about in the previous posting, there's a real sense of the "cafe culture" in this city. Bern is one of those places in Europe that exudes its own style, but also borrows a lot from other cultures surrounding it. For instance, the local language is predominantly German, but Bern is the closest "large" Swiss city to the Italian border. On the drink menus, you see evidence of this - almost every cafe has "caffe corretto" on it, meaning a shot of espresso served with a shot of grappa.

Click for larger image

In Canada, if a licensed cafe sold this, you'd probably see the espresso priced at $2, and the caffe corretto version priced at $7 or more. But the opposite is true here in Bern. I found plenty of places where the espresso is 4 CHF (swiss francs), but the caffe corretto is only 1 or 1.5 CHF more. Shows how our booze taxes play a big role in what things cost.

What I love about most European towns and something really evidenced in Bern is the sense of cafe culture that we simply don't have in Canada or the US. Everyone dines out in the evening, at least 4, 5 times a week or more in this town. And when I say "dine out", I mean that - they're sitting under the stars while enjoying evenings with friends.

I had a bit of a surprise this morning too. At this cafe with maybe 75-80 tables, and most of them full right now? I'm the only guy I can see with a laptop computer open. Freaky. Plenty of cell phones in effect, plenty of texting going on, but really, most of the tables are filled with two or more people just chatting away. Which is the way it should be. I'm feeling very anti social at the moment, in fact ;)

Andrew just got here, so time for me to shut down and do an update later today.

Dateline Bern, May 18, 5:20pm

What a day. I headed over to the Bern Expo facilities to get acclimatized (the AC in the building is completely screwed up by the way - yesterday, with it 27C outside, the vents inside were blowing hot air!, Today isn't much better - it's hot in here), and it was literally a few hours of saying hi to old friends, meeting new ones, and getting a lay of the land, as it were.

I heard that only four of the 2006 judges taking the sensory skills test passed - meaning it looks like this year's judging pool is a smidge shallow. In the final judges' meeting, I counted about 40 people. There's quite possibly more though - I missed most of the early judges' meeting (gulp).

I caught the Baristas getting more detailed walkthroughs. As a judge, I wasn't sure how appropriate it would be for me to listen in, so I didn't, but I did snap a few pics.

Baristas getting instruction

It seems the WBC isn't getting as good support as they should from the facilities host. There was no bottled water for the judges doing the flights today, the climate problems look potentially huge, and signage for some things is a bit lacking - I was wandering around for some time looking for the judges' meeting room. Eventually Marcus Bonny from Intelly found me and directed me to the proper room.

Click for larger image
Belle Epoque
Check out the beautiful espresso machine, right inside the Bern Expo (at a cafe in the expo).

I don't know if you know this, but almost everywhere in Bern, people can smoke indoors. This includes the Expo facilities. While the WBC has put up no smoking signs at the stage itself, off to the practice area on stage right, there's a full smoking area with about 12 tables, and a cafe. I really wonder how this is going to screw over the palates of some judges, and affect the taste of the espresso being pulled. After all, they're ultra strict with us judges about not wearing any kind of scents, perfumes, body deodorant, etc so as not to screw over our sensorys, yet, a scant 10, 15 feet from the right side competitor area on stage, people can smoke.

Certified Judges' Flights
The afternoon was taken up by a series of judges' calibration flights with three amazingly skilled Baristas - we had Carl Sara on one machine, Bronwen Serna on another, and Kristi, a Icelandic woman, on the third machine. All knew their stuff well.

This was an exhaustive session. We broke up into three groups, and had half of each group doing sensory, half of each group doing technicals at each station. We went through all three stations doing espresso rounds, then went through again doing cappuccinos. All in all, we as our small groups saw and evaluated 48 espressos, and 48 cappuccinos. That's a hella lot. By the end, I was fairly punch drunk.

But Justin, Fritz and Jose did a great job organizing this and staying on top of things. A lot of potential issues were covered, and clarified. I learned a bit, especially on the technical side, and I felt the session really advanced my skills as a judge. I was always lacking a bit of confidence on the technical judging side, but after running a technical station yesterday for the 2007-2008 judges, and really diving head in on the technicals today, I feel fully up to speed. And to tell you the truth, this kind of training is invaluable - it's worth $100s of training dollars at a trade show, and even then you don't get into this level of expertise.

By the end of the session, we had the judges' wrap up session where further issues were clarified, and we were "good to go" as they say in Nascar. I judge Saturday, and I like that I have tomorrow off, because, well, I'm attending a wedding tomorrow! (yes, my aunt and cousin live in town, and my cousin is getting married!)

Last for this sub entry, Flickr's been updated again - enjoy ;)

Dateline: late at night

Well, last post of the evening. I had a very interesting evening dining out with the Commonwealthers - the Australians, New Zealanders, and the sole Canadian, moi. We were also joined by some very cool Americanos ;)

The table was a veritable who's who of quality coffee. Paul Bassett. Instaurator. Emma Markland. Carl Sara. Uh... lots of other people.

I won't report what was said, because it was all super-extreme off the record stuff. What's said in Bern sometimes has to stay in Bern.

But, it was lively, and you know, the passion and intensity of the minds at that table were just so explosive. I will bring up one thing Paul, Inny and I had a very lively debate on. We were talking about the "best coffees we ever had". For a while the talk was very much on quality coffees, specially sourced, lovingly roasted, and lovingly prepared.

At one point, I said "you know guys, the best coffee I ever had was stale, too dark roasted, hand cranked-ground, and not even prepared very well...." And I told them the story about the moka-brewed coffee I shared with my Mom and my two brothers while on a camping trip a couple of years ago. See, the camping trip was my Mom's "last wish" - she was afflicted with terminal cancer, and had told a friend if she could have one more wish come true, it would be to once again, go to the place of our younger days (Algonquin Park), and once again "camp with the boys". So we gave my Mom that last wish. And when I made the coffee in the morning on a moka pot, my Mom, who never drank coffee, asked for some. We watched the sun come up over the lake, the mist, the loons floating by, and I realised that was the best damned cup of coffee I ever had.

And Paul and I shared a look. And he said "coffee relies on the emotional draw as much as the physical taste - yes, you did have your best cup of coffee that morning!"

This is the main reason why I like Paul so much. He's accused of being a hard ass, or arrogant, or even close minded when it comes to quality coffee issues, but you know what? That's so false. The dude simply "gets it". Yes, he's as focused on the quality in the cup as anyone, but he gets that coffee is a sensory, emotional, harmonious experience that goes beyond what's in the cup.

We need to cover more of this kind of stuff on CoffeeGeek ;)

Once again, I'd like to thank Rocket Coffee Roasters as our primary sponsor for all the content posted during this trip to the WBC, the World of Coffee, and the forthcoming reports from the Italian road.

We'd also like to thank Zaccardis and Coffee and Kitchen for helping out too, and you'll also find mention of these companies on the CoffeeGeek Podcast

Zaccardis Coffee and Kitchen

And we also thank Parkside Roasters for their support.

Parkside Coffee - Bronze Sponsor
Article rating: 7.6
Author: Mark Prince
Posted: May 18, 2006
feedback: (6) comments | read | write
Reports From the Road Column Archives  
Column Description
One of the more popular pieces of content on the CoffeeGeek website are the reports from major trade shows. We cover shows like no other media source does - giving first hand intimate and frank reports that give you the real scoop on what's going on, from a consumer and a coffee lover's true perspective.

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