Its not that we’re not prepared, its more that we didn’t realise Tokyo was not the same as every other big city. It seems fresh cream is not a common item in every grocery store. About an hour ago, Jen, James and myself were pacing around central Tokyo, checking every convenience store and food hall we could find in search of cream and a certain, not too unusual herb. Thankfully, we did eventually find it, but sweet Jesus, that was tight, especially as the shops were due to close a half hour or so later.
To further add to the stress, we were yet to find a local milk we were happy with, so on returning to the hotel, some tasting had to happen. We had already tasted quite a few drinks that day, especially milk drinks so we weren’t particularly looking forward to this. I say we, it seems James, really means it when he says he’s not a big milk fan, and so the tasting was down to me. Now I realise this might seem last minute work, but we didn’t think the milks we orginally sampled would or could be so bad.
Anyway, so today as you well know was the first day of the World Barista Championship. For a complete list and full video of all the competitors, please look to http://www.zachzachary.com. Zachary and Katie have been relentless in their coverage, glued to their laptops and cameras or running around catching quick interviews all day and they deserve an awful lot of credit for sticking to their word so much in what they’d achieve here in Tokyo. They’re also lovely people, so lovely in fact that they can wear semi-matching outfits and still come across charming- something so many hideous people attempt and fail to pull off.
Credit too, must go to Nick Cho, the Master of Cermonies for all 23 competitors today and as far as I know is set to do it all again tomorrow. I’d never met him before or seen him do MC, but he’s really good at hosting the competition and I particularly like how he addresses each barista as ‘barista champion’ on stage.
The event, to me seems very well organised. As James’ coach, I was backstage quite a lot, and got to see a lot of the logistics that go into making the whole thing tick. It really is astonishing and apart from one or two small hick ups that were really out of the organisers’ control, they seemed to have pulled it off perfectly.
I watched quite a few of the competitors but sadly couldn’t see them all. The tightest performers, from the not too valid audience perspective, were Norway, Denmark, New Zealand, and Mexico. I heard others were great too. I saw no one who seemed unprepared or embarrassingly out of their debt. The standard is getting higher and higher, making the notion of me competing next year both more challenging and kind of terrifying.
James is on at 9 am in the morning, first of the day. I will momentarily be on stage. His coffees seemed to have made the journey unscathed and were tasting pretty wonderful in practice today. The polishing is all done and all the equipment is safe, and accounted for. We just decided what music is best after deliberating for months. I’m wondering now if his shoes need polishing, but hey, with the new rules now,…
You should also check out the barista magazine blog where Ken is posting his clever insights quite often through each day.
Check flickr for more, and think kind thoughts towards James in the morning, though most of you are probably asleep at that time. Nevermind.