what would WBC be without controversy?!

April 26, 2005 – 10:58 pm

this blog freely admits that it is a bit late to this scintillating debate over judging standards at the worlds. a cynic would read this thread and immediately note that the only folks nervous/unhappy with the extremely rigorous certification and taste-testing process are those self-propped espresso godfathers who have a better-than-average chance of applying to judge a competiton at some future date. every niche crowd is susceptible to its elitists and status-mongers.

but we know this can’t possibly be their motivation. right? as an amateur, conscientious junkie and hopeful someday pro, i don’t WANT to be able to qualify (currently) as a judge. it’s like a deity complex — you WANT the people passing out final scores to be untouchable, as it were, in their madd sensory skillz. judging-cert details here. suffice it to say, it involves serious ninja taste buds. key quote (from dan kehn):

I think it’s pretty fair to say that if prospective judges can practice the test beforehand, more will succeed and the “controversy” will diminish. I don’t see any issue with allowing candidates to practice the protocol; afterall, it isn’t a pop quiz, it’s a verification of someone’s basic taste abilities.

mark prince disagrees:

… practicing should not be allowed. After all, this is a sensory skills test, not a memorization test. It’s just that simple.

the discussion veers into whether judges should be well-versed in premium espresso (an acquired discernment) or simply talented enough to pick the best from basic sensory function (a innate ability). but the best take comes from outside the usual guru class:

So as far as the the competitors themselves are concerned ….they are always being pushed to raise the bar…be more professional, perfect their skill, and are told more and more…it is taste thate counts the most in the end.
I find it a bit odd that they should then be judged be people who would push to lower the standard of excellence applied to them. I mean …come on!
The judge should have the ability to pass this test and then some…how can we expect the competitors to have any faith in the judges ability to discern the correct flavors from their product…if the judges are trying to get their certification through the back door?

that’s about the nub of it. and to be honest, it’s kinda gratifying knowing that the big cheeses of the craft have their own jitters and requisite nervousness at being challenged to prove their mettle. if i compete in a competition some day, and if i get smacked down in the first round, i will value it most if the score comes from some oracle of sensory detection, not a wannabe who sweated through a watered down sweet-sour-salty test.

now just imagine if we introduced naked portafilters at competitions? talk about a whole new sensory scoring category. and hey, (cynical take again) that may be why it never happens.