Barista Magazine

APR-MAY 2019

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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give back to the community that buys your coffee each and every day. We decided from day one that our throwdowns would benefi t charities and nonprofi ts, and we've never once regretted it. My two sons are on the autism spectrum, and over the years we've raised thousands of dollars for a handful of organizations that serve affected individuals and their families. With sponsors providing the prizes, competitors' registration fees can go directly to charity, and there are plenty of other ways to raise even more. We solicit small donations from businesses (both coffee and otherwise) throughout our area, then sell raffl e tickets to audience members. We also hold an "auction round" during the competition, in which onlookers get to bid on and drink the lattes being poured. Get a food truck to show up and donate a portion of their sales, and give attendees an up-close-and-personal look at the organization you're supporting by inviting a representative to share a brief word about what they do in your community. AUDIENCE EYES In the café, we're constantly looking at our spaces through customers' eyes, and the dif- ference between putting on an OK throwdown and an awesome one comes down to a similar mindset. What will the audience see? Maybe you can have a camera trained on the judging area, and images of the lattes projected for all to see. Where will onlookers go? Think about that as you arrange tables, displays, and whatnot. How will they know what's going on? Make sure you've given your emcee all the info you want communicated—explanations at the outset, enthusiastic updates as the competition unfolds, and plenty of shout-outs for your sponsors. If possible, give onlookers something to do besides just watching: free coffee tastings at the rear of the room, perhaps, or even a "Barista 101" booth with a one-group machine and a barista to teach basic milk steaming. A silent auction, or an art show featuring work by local coffee folks, artists, or schoolchildren, can be a great draw and expand the crowd you're attracting to the event. Whatever you come up with, give some thought to making the entire affair—not just the competition—engaging to anyone who happens by. CLEAR EXPECTATIONS Two frequent sore spots at throwdowns: unclear judging and poor communication. It sucks to spend time and money to compete in a throwdown, only to feel that the judging was unfair, or to fi nd out you're only allowed to pour swans into cortado cups. Fortunately, both pitfalls are easy to avoid. For starters, let participants know about any special rules they'll be expected to follow. If there's going to be a dice round, communi- cate that ahead of time; if you expect them to bring their own pitchers and cups, make sure that's communicated well ahead of the event. As for judging, create clear parameters (or use the widely regarded Coffee Fest criteria, minus the speed point; see, and make sure to calibrate your judges just prior to the competition getting underway. Speaking of judges, make sure your judging panel is as diverse as possible, with representatives from multiple shops so as to avoid bias. You might even consider inviting a local celebrity to judge alongside two seasoned coffee pros. None of that ensures that no one will gripe—there's bound to be a controversial call or two—but it will make for a better event, and help you sleep better at night. WHAT ABOUT WASTE? A frequent complaint about throwdowns is the amount of waste involved: All that espresso and milk, going down the drain! But it 83

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