In March, six of us from thump — and Finley — traveled to Portland to watch the U.S. National Barista Competition and visit some notable coffeehouses. In a nutshell, we were all impressed with the intimate knowledge each competitor had of the specific coffees they used in the competition. Some competitors had established relationships with the coffee growers and had gone to origin during the harvest season to watch the harvest and processing of the coffee they used in competition. This experience led to a deeper understanding of how farming and processing practices affect the flavor profile of the bean. Some competitors were roasters themselves and were painstakingly involved throughout the several months it took to develop the espresso blend with which they ultimately competed.
We came away with a respect for the time each competitor put into preparing for their 15 minutes of fame, and the depth of understanding each competitor had of multiple aspects of coffee, from coffee farming and roasting, to coffee drink preparation. Observing this competition, attending trainings that occurred simultaneously, and visiting various coffeehouses validated for us the importance of ongoing learning and improving the quality of our coffee.