Belle says she's ready. We believe her.
Although she finished a strong fourth in the Mid-Atlantic Regionals a couple weeks ago, it's going to be considerably more difficult to get into the finals during the SCAA conference and US Barista Championships in Charlotte.
First off, there are more than twice the number of competitors she faced in February. And all the regional champions have a bye, just like UConn and Villanova in the Big East Tourney. Belle will have to go through at least one additional round that the champs won't.
Second, many of the national roasters will be competing - and all of them have rooms in the roasteries or stores set up for cupping, which can be devoted to training and practice. Even our idol, St. Nick of Murky, just created a cupping room which will be used to train his store's two entrants.
We don't have anything of the sort for practice. The only time Belle can practice is when we don't have any customers during her shifts. Which isn't all that often.
So the odds are stacked against our Belle. But we have confidence. We already know she can pour a great shot and make beautiful steamed milk and microfoam for cappys. The basics of flavor are covered. It's all the presentation stuff we need to work through.
After much debate, we're taking a different gameplan into this next competition. We're going to work on some new signature drinks, possibly something that flames or uses liquid nitrogen. We're also going to practice role playing in Italian. We figure the judges will be both impressed by her presentation in a foreign language, while not understanding a word, which gives us more leeway. Finally, instead of having Belle play recorded music for her performance, since she's a piano player, we're going to see if she can pour espresso with one hand and play keyboards with the other.
Bet the judges have never seen that.