Barista Nation Texas was hosted by Oak Cliff Coffee in Dallas on Monday, November 5th. Anastasia Chovan, the organizer and creator of the Barista Nation project, said Monday that Barista Nation Texas in Dallas was the largest turnout of any Barista Nation in the US, with second being San Francisco.
I have my own theories as to why this occurred, but more on that later. A variety of presentations were available to a group of coffee lovers from across the region. Some attendees came from as far as New Mexico, with folks from Austin, Houston, Lubbock, Amarillo, and other parts of this state, as well as neighboring ones.
There were a few presentations that I found particularly interesting.
Coffee Collaboration: Farmer and Roaster
Featuring Ernesto Menendez of Finca Los Brumas in El Salvador, 1st Place in 2012 El Salvador COE. A few things during his presentation (in collaboration with Shannon Neffendorf) really resonated with me, and some thoughts I’ve had about coffee retail lately. He gave some information about what it takes to consistently produce stellar crops of coffee year after year.
Thoughts like, you have to actually be present on the farm. You have to see how crops are doing, how the climate is effecting them, how the soil is, how the moisture is, and on and on. There’s no possible way that you can effectively manage and understand what’s going on without having your own boots on the ground to witness it first hand. (Retail owners, are you listening?)
He also mentioned which varietals he grows, which I also found of particular interest, especially when two varietals in specific were mentioned that you don’t think of when you think of coffee from El Salvador: geisha, and SL-28. I had the opportunity to talk with him later, and it’s interesting to note how “origin flavor” still seems to have such a firm grip on cupping juries, even to this day. Geisha isn’t going to be available for at least another 5 years or so (for those who are curious), and SL-28 (a Kenya cultivar) he describes as “interesting”. Apparently, when on a cupping table along with a bunch of Bourbons and Pacamaras, it is often described as defective. (reference back to my note about “origin taste”)
Cafe Marketing: Create an Impact Without Breaking the Bank
This is a presentation that was given by Tom Vincent of Texas Coffee School about marketing your specialty coffee brick ‘n mortar retail business for little to no money. If you were not already familiar with social media marketing, it was a moderately enlightening and informative string of strategies to increase traffic and sales. It was mostly just common sense applied where it often isn’t. Use FourSquare, use a promotional post only every 7nth status update, and recommend only the most profitable menu items (instead of assumed popular drinks) to customers who ask, were just a few of the techniques mentioned.
I didn’t have time to check out both of these first two presentations in their entirety, because they were happening at the same time. Please take note of this, as it is quite possible that there were significantly more useful topics discussed while I was watching Ernesto and Shannon’s presentation.
Creating A USBC Routine: from the journey, to the competition, to the cafe
This is a presentation given by Lorenzo Perkins that I was only able to catch the tail end of, as I was attending the other presentation given at the same time (mentioned next). I was able to catch the end of it, when Lorenzo was giving a quick run-down of notable champions, including recent previous winners of the USBC. He mentioned what each one went on to do after winning, when he noticed (or at least mentioned) that many Barista champions use their new-found winningness to do things unrelated to being a barista. This, in my opinion, speaks volumes. Not about barista champions, but about the United States and our cultural view of the service industry.
He also mentioned that the high point in barista competition history was, in his opinion, Stephen Morrissey’s WBC performance in 2008. Search Google
Creating a Roast Profile: Exploring Acid Development in the Roasting Process
Brent Hall of S&D Coffee (formerly of Counture Culture Coffee) gave a presentation of what acids are present in coffee, how they effect taste, and in what percentage each one is present. I found this one to be the most enjoyably geeky of all of the presentations I witnessed. (note: I didn’t see all of them)
There was a cupping line set up, with a sample of coffee pulled from each minute of roasting to the 23rd minute, if I recall correctly. In my own words in the moment of tasting, “I tasted the rainbow, and they should have stopped at 21.” It was interesting to taste the progression and development of perceived acidity through the roast process. Granted, this was a pretty slow roast with a rather long drying phase.
Keynote: Stop, Collaborate, and Listen Actually given by Jason Burton of The Lab. It struck me as off-the-cuff and unplanned. The itinerary listed Jordan Michelman and Zachary Carlsen of sprudge.com to be the presenters, so that very well may have been the case. Nothing worth noting. A lot of thank you’s were given, and this is when surprise was expressed at the turnout.
Collaborate Barista Business Tools and Your Cafe by Ryan of Oak Lawn Coffee and Shannon Neffendorf. I missed this presentation entirely. I wish I hadn’t.
Collaborate, Fair Trade coffee, and liquor by Richard Sandlin of Fair Trade USA. I missed this one as well, though from what I gathered, it never fully happened. Nothing to report.
Create: How to troubleshoot off tasting results in any brewing method by Tom Vincent. The only quirks demonstrated were based on brew ratio, and the only topic discussed was brew ratio. I think more than a few people were a little disappointed. I know that I was personally hoping for more. 55-60 grams per Liter is all you need to know.
Recipes Collaboration: How to Support Your Cafe by Sauro Dall Anglio and Garold LaRue of Avoca Coffee was about drink definitions, how they vary, and a few of Garold’s drink mixture creations that he uses to make his cafe stand out to his customers. It was mildly entertaining, difficult to hear, and less about coffee, and more about using it as an ingredient rather than as a beverage in itself. I had mixed feelings about this one, but then, anyone who knows me knows that I am all about the coffee.
Panel Discussion –
Barista & Customer: How can they collaborate to create a better experience? This was a panel discussion, and I missed most of it. (catching up with old friends kept me from more than one) The last discussion that I caught was about whether or not a mediocre product can be compensated for with outstanding service. The answers varied, as did their reasons. This concept might make for a good article for this site later. (note to self)
Lastly, there was a latte art throwdown with a $5 buy-in. Unfortunately, it started getting a bit late for me to keep my family waiting, so I said my good byes and left.
we have such a huge amount of work to do. I’ve seen it before in Lubbock, and it’s kind of interesting seeing it somewhere else. In short, the Revolution I mention in the Texas Coffee People Mission Statement continues HERE.
Just a reminder:
Barista Nation Texas happens this upcoming Monday, all day long.
Oak Cliff Coffee
817 W Davis St.
Dallas, TX 75208
Registration is from 9:30am to 10:30am.
The schedule of events runs until 6:30pm with a reception to boot.
I hope to see you there!