This may be hard to believe but once upon a time I was a bad barista. Yeh, I know.
In order to redress the situation I began pestering people with questions, anecdotes and theories in the hope that they’d pass on their hard-earned knowledge. In most cases, they did.
One such person was Stephen Morrissey, who one day did something very simple for me which made a huge impact on how I approached competition, my job and everything that followed after. He showed me his scoresheets.
Now, at the time Stephen was the incumbent World Barista Champion and one of the biggest name in coffee. I on the other hand was petrified by talk of dosing, extraction and latte art and was in complete awe of the baristas I watched online and in the busy cafes of London. I was weeks away from competing at my first WBC and felt enormously out of my depth.
Stephen’s very selfless act helped me in a lot of ways, but mostly because it demystified the job of a barista. He showed me the video of his performance and talked me through the scores. He cringed at the points lost, pointed out his errors (a farm called Guatemala?) and pretty much showed me that he was human after all.
It would have been easier to keep the scoresheets to himself and go along with the idealistic opinion I had of him that day but he chose not to. In truth, despite laying bear all his shortcomings, my estimation of him grew.
In later months I was lucky enough to bear witness to a handful of other baristas scoresheets and each time I got the chance I lapped them up taking mental notes and learning lessons like they were maps through a mine field.
I have therefore decided to pass on this kind gesture and publish my scoresheets so other aspiring baristas can see the anatomy of a competition run and also reveal the glaring errors that I made along the way.
Another reason I have decided to do this is perhaps slightly more delicate a discussion to have and that is the topic of transparency. Anyone who’s ever been associated with barista competitions knows that there has always, regrettably, been a murmuring of collusion, bias and argument associated with the scoring. I, for the record, believe no such clandestine behaviour is at play.
I’ve always felt that however unwaranted this wink-and-elbow whispering is, it is perhaps the fault of the organisers for conducting scoring in such a secretive way. We all know the scores of the competitors so why not reveal how they got those scores and who gave them? The current set-up does nothing short of arousing suspicion and invite criticism.
My finals video (slightly chopped) can be found here and the previous rounds are easily found if you follow the links. The pdf scoresheets are posted below so please download, watch and learn from my mistakes. I will also be delighted to field any questions you may have.
Finally I would also urge other competition baristas to follow suit and post your own scoresheets. If we are to move forward as an industry I firmly believe that disclosure, transparency and the sharing of knowledge is the key to our mutual success.