On a recent trip to Los Angeles to judge the US Western Regional Barista Competition I saw some really impressive things. Usually I would break down the signature drinks and coffees that I was lucky enough to experience, like the sweet flavored mist that I was served in one such sig drink, but that's not what really caught my eye.
The thing that stood out to me from the perspective of a Canadian was the efforts made to engage the non coffee professionals that were attending the competition as spectators.
The first thing that I noticed was the venue. It was small enough to be intimate but had an upper mezzanine with lounge style seating. A nice break from rows of hard plastic folding chairs for an all day event. They also had a kids craft table set up. This has always confused me with our Canadian comps. We place them on a trade show floor where you need a show badge and no children are permitted and then hope for a good attendance.
The last thing was the volunteer service bar at the back of the venue. If you look at the poster in the photo you can see a breakdown of commercial coffee from seed to cup. It strikes me that if a non coffee pro was listening to all the competitors explain exact details about the origin and processing of the coffees a poster like the one pictured would really help to understand what they were talking about.
Hopefully in future years we can learn from some of these examples and get more out of our competition weekends here.