I had a great time last weekend at the Nordic Barista Cup here in Oslo. It was even better than attending the national or world championships. Why? Well, because there were so many activities for both the competitors and for the attendees, and everybody seemed to have more fun. I especially remember seeing the national teams laughing, cheering and enjoying themselves in several events. You don't see that often in normal championships. People are a lot more tense and focused then. I am not saying that is a bad thing, only that I am glad we have an event like the NBC too were it is more relaxed and playful.
The NBC is above all a great way to meet other people interested in coffee, and we got to mingle a lot during the event. The social program was great and during the three days I got to talk to lots of nice people from around the world sharing the same interest. There is such a great vibe and people are so open and willing to share knowledge and experiences. This is what I personally enjoy the most about barista championships, and I guess why I like hanging out with people involved with specialty coffee. I always feel very welcome as an enthusiast.
Day 1 I met my good friend (and fellow coffee nut) Audun at Nationaltheatret and took the subway to Ryen. Our destination was the Solberg&Hansen building which is only a five minute walk from the station. The first thing that hits you when you walk up the stairs to the main facility at S&H is a fresh smell of green coffee. Our expectations rose even higher. This was going to be a great day!
After registering and getting our gear we soon met Andreas, Trygve, Tim, Tone and many more. It was so nice to see them again and they made us feel very welcome. Tone and Tim were pretty busy already with coordinating the event. The first competition task had already been given and we could see the national teams working in the background. Being pretty thirsty for some coffee, we proceeded up the stairs and towards the Faema they have there.
We made some coffee for ourselves. A queue materialized almost immediately and I swiftly moved away so I wouldn't be stuck there making shots. I was more interested in meeting people. A lot of familiar faces were to be seen, like Ron Cook from La Marzocco, John Sanders from Hines, Stephen Vick from Stumptown etc. I also saw various people from coffee bars here in Oslo and from other cities in Norway. After chatting and eating lunch we got to see some presentations, the most interesting being the one by Aida Batlle from Kilimanjaro Estate in El Salvador.
She spoke about her involvement with the Cup of Excellence program, about coffee in El Salvador, and about her fruitful business relationship with Solberg&Hansen. They bought her winning COE 2003 coffee for the record high price of $14.06. An attendee asked if she still submits coffee to the COE events. She replied that she doesn't. By winning in 2003 she got the recognition and PR that she needed to reach the buyers. COE is a great marketing tool in this respect. Coffee farms that normally are hidden behind exporters are made visible and people can deal directly with the farms. To win the COE is no easy feat. Aida's coffee was cupped twice nationally and twice by an international team of cuppers. I've had the chance to drink that coffee both as drip and espresso and it is great.
Presentations were also given by DaVinci and Mahlkoenig, but I didn't find them very interesting. They were too product centered. The presentation by COSIC about coffee and health was pretty interesting, but I am not completely convinced that their results are not affected by them being funded by the coffee industry. Little time was spent on talking about any negative effects of coffee. I was especially puzzled by the statement that coffee is not addictive. I think most people clearly feel some negative effects when suddenly ending their coffee consumption. Personally I get headaches.
After the presentations we all met in downtown Oslo to go on a guided tour by tram. They had actually rented a tram for the sole purpose of taking us around the city and afterwards to the destination of the evening: the Ekeberg restaurant. Champagne was served and people were having a really nice time. It was pretty weird to be partying on the tram that I most of the time use to and from work.
We arrived at the Ekeberg restaurant, a beatiful place with a great view over Oslo. Wine and delicious food was served and we got to know which team was the overall winner of the first day: the danes. Afterwards we did some speed dating were everbody had to switch person after talking for three minutes. We did this for a half hour. A great idea. I have to admit that I didn't switch as often as three minutes :).
I'll write about day two later. 9/28/2005 09:21:00 PM