Hey, Nick here. I guess it's not too often I post on here, so it's time to make all that up. I was recently called the "most elusive barista in Toronto," and I guess that's not so surprising all things considered.
It's my first shift back from a brief, hectic trip to Vancouver. I got back just in time to catch the Eastern Regional barista championships, where our very own Alex Tran and Matt Taylor represented. I laid low this time out, the combination of my recent Western sojourn and the fact that it's bloody end of term and why the hell would anyone schedule a barista competition at end of term? (Hello, what's the number one college job? You fill in this one: ________).
It was awesome to see Alex and Matt represent, and they came out in full force. Alex had the Mercury mainstay Dark City in tow, while Matt opted for the fantastic 49th Parallel Epic Espresso (I admit my bias: I used to work for 49th, but seriously-- it's the best espresso in Canada, maybe even North America). Also competing were my bros Matt Lee, who had the brass to pull out a Mazzer Major grinder at an event sponsored by Elektra!; and Sam James, who works at Cherry Bomb and has only been at this thing for 6 months. Matt Lee had Intelligentsia Organic Kid 'O', which comes as no surprise since he reps Intelly for Toronto, while Sam had his shop's blend of Dark City, which he had doctored with some Yirgacheffe for good measure.
I'm not going to give a blow-by-blow, except to say my boys made me proud. Both Matts had very impressive signature drinks-- Taylor had a nice combo of blood orange, espresso and amaretti; Lee had a cappuccino infused with rosemary, ginger and grapefruit rind juiced over an open flame! Sam was all pro in spite of his rookie status-- his performance was one of the most polished of anyone there (even though he re-pulled a shot and adjusted his grind mid-competition! What balls, and he stayed under time). Alex's laid back delivery and impressive latte art similarly belied his rookie competition status-- nice job.
For all of the professionalism these guys put out, I sure wish it could have been reciprocated by the organizers. Sound problems, a lack of video projector (jesus, the crowd is bored enough watching person after person make coffee, the least you can do is give them a close up view and audible vocal levels!), extremely drawn out lags between competitors and especially during the lead up to announcements, and fluctuating temperatures in the venue wreaked havoc on the day. I'm holding out for the Canadian Barista Competition this September in Toronto. It'll be a more professional event, and I bet all of the judges will even be coffee professionals! Still no certainty if they, unlike some this weekend, will manage to listen to competitors' instructions for how to consume signature drinks, or even drink more than a sip of each beverage. But here's hoping!
Oh and FYI-- I'm pulling shots of Epic Espresso in the shop today. Got a little bit left, you don't wanna miss this stuff. Such a sweet, syrupy bottom end, it's a very nice straight espresso. And I'm out.