How to Succeed in Your First Coffee Competition
Just a few months ago, I had one of the biggest highlights of my coffee career. Participating in the Lithuanian Barista championship I won the second place in the competition.
I was pretty close to the winner, but winning is not necessarily the most important result. I can now understand how useful this was for my career.
It was my second time participating in the Lithuanian Barista Championship. That´s what I call experience. The whole preparation time gives you so much. You learn something new every time you push yourself to do the best. Each movement, second or sound could make your performance perfect or make you lose everything.
The aim of the Championship is not only to find out who is best. It is also the way to find yourself, and to show what you have learnt and to share knowledge and be surrounded by people who love coffee.
Preparation is the most important element of success. In the Championship, each participant has only 15 minutes to reveal his or her skills, technical knowledge and personality.
Competing baristas prepare four espressos, four cappuccinos, and four original signature drinks in just 15 minutes. Four sensory judges, two technical judges and a head judge observe, taste, evaluate and score the coffee presentation of one barista at a time. The emphasis is on flavour, but technical skills and the overall impression also count.
During those 15 minutes, there should not be a moment when the competitor doesn’t know what to do. Every move has to be practiced over and over again, and the speech should be well-rehearsed but still natural. It takes a lot of time to achieve.
The competition experience becomes something much larger than just those 10 to 15 minutes. The actual results are something much greater than scores and rankings. Besides your knowledge of coffee, you have to have inspiration, self-confidence, motivation and dedication, if you want to be interesting and leave a great impression.
When I first decided to participate in the Championship, I was quite new to the coffee industry but very curious. Well, the goal was only to look around, to understand what is the point and to improve my skills and meet new people.
I wanted to be more engaged with coffee. It purely a learning experience, but the results was not as bad as I expected, since I placed fifth of 14 participants. It was great that you could have a talk with the judges and ask for their advice and comments on your mistakes. Everyone is so friendly and very welcome to the coffee family.
When I decided to participate the second time, I had bigger ambitions. The truth is that everyone wants to win and to represent their country in the World Barista Championship. This time I lost with only three points that separated me from victory.
When I finished second, I was feeling angry and disappointed. Then I realised that I was a winner too, because the fight was so equal. I felt proud and happy.
When the judges are watching your performance, it can be nerve-wracking — but you must remain confident. It is important to be mentally prepared, because you only have one opportunity. The slightest hesitation or doubt will cost you dearly. Luckily you are also well supported by the coffee community and hopefully also feel that way.
Competing is a transformative experience in so many ways. Your workflow, your ability to communicate ideas about coffee, your attention to detail and your understanding of coffee are scrutinised. My passion for specialty coffee is growing every time I face the competition.
In this competition, I had a chance to show my passion and the judges were able to enjoy my coffee just as much as I do. I want to explore more, know more and share more. Every day is a learning experience and that is what matters the most for me. As far as my plans go, I just want to grow as a professional and maybe one day be the winner of the National Barista Championship and represent my country as a coffee ambassador.