After this year’s WBC I began thinking about the language and communication between the competitor and the judges (who seem to have a good understanding of English). Three of the finalists were native speakers of English, two had obviously been living in an English speaking country. This left me wondering, how much competitor’s language skills actually do weight when scoring the performance?
Not having competed myself I have to rely on assumptions and observations but I reckon that in the WBC level everyone has somewhat exceptional coffee. It’s not that much about the taste of the coffee anymore when you have some 50 best baristas in the world pulling their shots((1)). It’s more about presenting the coffee, communicating one’s mission, passion or the reason why they are there on the podium, and presenting something new and exciting, just like Irish barista champion Colin Harmon did.
All of this, of course, is easier with sufficient language skills. It would be fairly difficult to give a staggering performance if the competitor cannot express himself. I think that it’s not very far from the truth if I say that one has to speak fluent and versatile English in order to with the WBC. From my experience that technically requires living in an English speaking country for some time.
We had almost similar problem in the Finnish Barista Championship this spring. Two of the judges, a sensory and the head judge, did not speak nor understand Finnish at all. Nevertheless, all the six finalists performed in Finnish though at least one began her performance in English but quickly changed back to Finnish. This left me wondering how on earth could the judges, especially the head, get everything out of the competitor’s performance. If one would have been able to present the coffees in English, not doing so was, in my opinion, almost an insult towards the foreign judges.
Be it all Finnish judges in the next year’s barista competition I’m still going to rock in English. Just in case I might need do that also somewhere else…
- Please correct me if you have more insight on this subject [↩]