Coffee News: from Seed to Cup

Patrik Karlsson: 6 Steps to Developing a Competition Strategy

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So you’ve made the excellent decision to compete, and now you’re wondering what you need to do next.

Let me tell you now, effort alone will not lead you to success. I approached one of my first competitions really seriously, practicing ten to twenty hours a week outside of work for almost a year, and ended up 3rd. It was a good place, but it wasn’t a good experience. It drained me. I was young and foolish and didn’t ask for help. So much unnecessary time was wasted on practicing the wrong things.

SEE ALSO: What Does It Take to Judge or Compete at a Barista Championship?

Competing is a Team Effort

One of the most important things you can do is ask for help. Competitors, you will most probably need guidance. You will want someone to fight with you and to hold your hand when the shit hits the fan. Because it will.

Surround yourself with people who know coffee and who know the rules. It can be hard to find a coach, but there are always people to ask, whether in person, through email, on Skype, or even over a phone call.

If you’re working in a coffee shop, you may find you already have your supporting team in place – but be careful. Communicate with your colleagues and supporters in advance, so that everyone knows what support, and how much, will be provided. Otherwise, it may result in frustration – on both sides.

barista tamping

Practice, practice, practice… but let others help you along the way.

The 6 Steps to a Competition Strategy

Once you’ve found your winning team, you need to develop your strategy. Whatever coffee and roast you choose, remember these six things.

  1. Know the Rules: Read them, read them, and read them again. Make sure you understand them. A lot of people get disqualified, or receive low scores, just because they didn’t follow the rules.
  2. Log Everything: If you compete once, chances are you’re going to compete again in the future. This means you should log everything you do. Competing is a long process, but if you learn from each year’s experience you should be able to improve each time.
  3. Have a Game Plan: Every step of the process should be planned in advance. It doesn’t matter if, in the end, you don’t follow it; you should still make one and get it “approved” by someone who is experienced.
  4. Focus on a Score, Not a Position: Begin preparing by deciding what total score are you going for. Take a global perspective; winning a competition doesn’t necessarily mean you have a high score. However, achieving that score without winning is still going to be a win for you.
  5. Choose your Coffee Carefully: Not all coffees have the potential to score high. It doesn’t matter how good the roasting and brewing was, it won’t exceed the coffee’s potential. So pick a green coffee that correlates with the score you want.
  6. Relax a Little: You’re competing in coffee service; it is not a TEDx presentation. You can do this.

Espresso shots

Be confident! If you’re passionate about what you’re doing, this will show in your performance.

Competing should be a fun. It’s a chance to push yourself, to develop a brand, to network and engage with the community – and, above all, indulge in that love of coffee you have. So give it a go: what do you have to lose?

Written by P. R. Karlsson, Head of Roastery at Five Elephant, Berlin and edited by T. Newton.

Perfect Daily Grind.

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