|All photos by Liz Clayton, a friend to baristas worldwide|
(Liz loves macchiatos)
CPAS EAST: The Beginning. Sunday & Monday
The first East Coast Camp Pull-a-Shot is under our belts and we are glowing. Held at the ever-lovely Mountain Lake resort about an hour outside of Roanoke, VA, just over 100 baristas gathered together in the name of coffee. Mountain Lake is about 4,000 ft above sea level and hides at the top of a winding ascent lined with fir trees and steep rock and leaf covered ravines off each side. What coffee trip could be truly complete without a slow white-knuckle climb through the mountains before reaching your destination?
|A misty afternoon at Mountain Lake.|
Alongside our pool of barista campers we were lucky to have James Hoffman and Pete Licata attending BGA classes and offering input, advice, and counsel to any camper who asked for it -- their professional demeanor and curious minds added value to our camp and I hope all the baristas who were excited to do so introduced themselves and asked questions. After initiating a super-crew of baristas into the SCAA Instructor Development Program (IDP) on Sunday, Camp East began in earnest Monday afternoon. As several buses arrived with curious and excited barista-campers we held our first class certifying and training future examiners capable of delivering the Level One exam. Later that afternoon the rest of the baristas arrived and checked in -- getting some seriously killer SWAG by-the-way -- and we delivered Level One exams to baristas hoping to take Level Two coursework during the week. Lorenzo and James also held an insightful lecture on iced coffee (a topic which has been on everyone’s lips recently).
That night was our opening ceremonies and our first team competition. Thanks to Tracy Ging and James for delivering some touching keynote speeches. Tracy’s speech focused on some consumer research done among specialty coffee drinkers, and she highlighted the personal, almost romantic relationship our customers have with coffee. I felt that highlighting what people love about coffee is how it makes them feel was an important theme for us to carry through camp and back into our cafes. James spoke briefly on the importance of community and, using himself as an example, showed how a shared experience like Pull-a-Shot can break down walls and reveal gaps in knowledge, leading to growth and new vistas of understanding.
|Team trophy "The Swayze" debuted on Monday night.|
Tuesday began as a gorgeous sunny day although it got rainy in the afternoon and evening, bringing a sense of coziness to our camp as baristas languorously strolled under verandas and around puddles, or spent time with new friends musing over what they learned while gazing out at the lake.
Teams began their cafes shifts on Tuesday morning and at 9:00AM the first whole day of classes began.
We offered both Level One and Level Two content on both Tuesday and Wednesday. Level One courses were all offered twice, whereas most Level Two classes were only offered once. Many instructors had their debut at East Coast Camp, including many patient and knowledgeable Station Instructors from Dallis Bros and Counter Culture Coffee. All our instructors were volunteers and they deserve a huge thank you from us -- we couldn’t do it without you.
|Teaching and Learning.|
Before dinner we had some free time for baristas to explore the espresso and grinder equipment as well as discuss the finer points of manual brewing. There was also a discussion entitled “Greening Your Cafe” as well as two revealing round-table discussions on “Describing Specialty Coffee” and “Untangling the Issues of Sustainability” -- hopefully the dialog around these three huge topics enabled baristas to crystallize some ideas and to understand how they can shape future decisions in their career.
After dinner we held the brewing relay competition which was very funny and required teams to perform all sorts of silly physical challenges before being allowed access to items required to complete brewing coffee. We witnesses baristas hula-hooping, eating donuts off of a string and -- to raucous laughter -- donning costumes. We had team leaders wearing a full-on banana suit, a red crayola crayon, a gnome, a hot dog, and also a “hip-hop” costume featuring exposed boxer-short lining in the pants and a gold medallion. My personal favorite was our EC Chair Mr. Dan Streetman in the gnome costume: his unusually-twinkly sky-blue eyes completed the illusion of a wizened gnome to a remarkable degree.
|Over 1,000 years of wisdom lie behind those eyes|
CPAS East: Wednesday
Rain continued through the night on Tuesday and into Wednesday morning. Baristas taking 100 Level course work who had coffee brewing and cupping class on Tuesday took our Introduction to Espresso 101 & 102 on Wednesday and vice-versa. Baristas taking 200 level content had the pleasure of learning latte art from one of my favorite instructors Lorenzo Perkins.
Wednesday afternoon at Camp Pull-a-Shot was filled with tension as we delivered Level One and Two exams. For the first time ever we played some quiet music in the testing room to help ease the nerves of test takers, thanks Trevor for that idea. Level One test-takers got to enjoy a mix of the Beatles, the Beach Boys and Bob Dylan while they attempted the practical portion of the exam.
By day’s end we had administered dozens of exams, passing 47 baristas at Level One and 9 baristas at Level Two. Congrats to all of our newly certificated baristas!
The final team event was a role playing challenge where teams had to negotiate buying, shipping, roasting, and brewing with a limited amount of BGA Bucks, then present their coffee to a panel of judges evaluating each coffee with the Brewers Cup scoresheet.
What could have been just another type of relay challenge took on a real-world aspect. Teams developed many different strategies in an effort to produce the best coffee. In the first round two teams pooled their resources in order to be able to purchase the most expensive coffee and roasting equipment. Another team actually dismantled their popcorn maker in order to be able to manually control the heating element in the effort to produce a longer roast and sweeter coffee. In the second round one team used their BGA bucks to buy all the brewing equipment in a play to force other teams to negotiate roasted coffee for brewing apparatus. Teams sorted out over- and under-roasted coffee from batches and everyone developed strategies to win. It was true free-market madness!
Against most expectations several of the teams produced some very nice coffees, the stand-out coffee to me was the Pacamara roasted by Pete’s team.
As the night wore on we screened Dirty Dancing and started a final dance party. The rain had finally let up and all the baristas truly let their guard down and started mingling. It was a moment that made my heart swell up. The disco ball was spinning and baristas were twirling and dancing as the sounds of laughter and music spilling out of the barn, down the sloping lawns and out into the darkening forest.
|Baristas hand-sorting over & under-roasted coffee|
Thursday morning was like the day after the last day of exams in college --- the first day of summer. I suddenly felt very tired. The sky was blue again, and everything seemed calm. Machines were methodically packed up into boxes, the last bits of coffee were snatched up, and hurried good-byes were delivered as baristas suddenly realized that weekend bar-shifts were imminent and that some loved-ones were probably more than a little anxious after a week of near zero contact due to non-existent cell service. Camp was over.
In the car-ride back home I watched the mountains gradually sink lower and lower into hills and I struggled to stay awake, my sleepy mind filled with the memory of the sweet smell of coffee and the hum of grinders and espresso machine pumps pouring out onto the foggy veranda of Mountain Lake.
I would like to extend a huge thank you to all the baristas who participated in Camp Pull-a-Shot East Coast as well as the big-hearted volunteers who helped baristas from across the country to further their development as a coffee professional. Finally, let me thank from the bottom of my heart the SCAA staff who facilitated this event: Carrie, Melissa, Lily, Ildi, Anne: you gals rule. No doubt there was unseen amounts of work carried out by SCAA staff back in Long Beach who are due gratitude as well, Thank You all.
|Goodbye Mountain Lake! Hope to see you again.|