23 competitors, 9 hours, 1 day

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Well the sun has set here in Tokyo, and Day One of the 2007 WBC has drawn to a close, and I feel like there’s only one word to describe it all: Unbelievable!

No really, unbelievable! Who would have ever thought you could go through a top-notch barista competition, let alone one featuring 23 national champions, in 9 hours? Honestly, with 23 competitors on the schedule today, I thought we would have been lucky to get out of the Big Site by 8 tonight. Instead, after starting exactly and 9 am we wrapped at 6 pm. And the audience in Tokyo witnessed some amazing work by nearly two dozen terrific baristas.

I’m exhausted. My camera’s battery is exhausted, and the memory card is completely full, but holy crap! what a day! We are entering yet another new era of barista competitions, and this one is all about champaign and cavair. Well mostly caviar.

Last September in Portland, I saw the Albina Press’ Billy Wilson win the Northwest Regional with his coffee caviar signature drink, and I thought it was pretty much amazing. Turns out though it was only the tip of the iceberg.

Today we saw competitors from Mexico, Spain and Italy, all do something with their signature drinks where they turned liquid into solids. And then there were competitors like New Zealand’s Carl Sara who turned liquid into gas, with a contrapation that looked like a glass octopus and dramatically separated the aroma of the espresso for the judges.

And there was so much more. In fact, I was going to write something about every competitor, because really they all deserved the recognition, and they all have amazing skills, tireless dedication and real passion for coffee, and I thought if I were to write about one I really needed to write about all of them. But I’ve found that the cool folks at zacharyzachary have not only already written a good summary for each competitor’s performance, but they have video too, so be sure to check that out.

One thing that must be mentioned besides the competitors, though, is the audience. Anyone’s who has been to a Coffee Fest has seen how the crowds gather before the show floor opens around the latte art competition, and when I came into the Big Site this morning, it seemed like I might be seeing that effect at work in Tokyo too. But all day long the audience filled the seats and pretty much all of the standing room too. It was awesome! They cheered heartily for every competitor and whooped it up for hot latte art or especially outrageous signature drinks. They were into it. And after the trade show opened, nothing changed. Sure some people left to go check out the show, but they were quickly replaced by others. Really, I haven’t seen anything like it. I was knocked out, and I hope the baristas were too. The crowds were there to see them and they loved what they saw. I mean just look at it:

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I can’t wait to see what Day 2 brings.

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