Diaries of a Cup of Excellence Judge - Chapter 1
Diaries of a CoE judge - Sunday May 8th - by Steve Leighton
Sunday the 8th of May 2005, 02:30
So here it begins. Iím awake, dressed and waiting for my friend to come and pick me up to take me to the airport. After all this time the day is finally here. Iím going to Nicaragua for the Cup of Excellence. The whole family is up, and Shay (my son) is a little upset. I donít think Iíve ever spent this much time away from him. But emails and phone calls will keep me going, and hopefully him too.
I donít have to wait long, Steve (my friend Ė confusing isn't it!) arrives and off we go. Its good to travel to the airport with a friend, the time goes quickly and I enjoy a journey Iíd normally hate. Iím a little nervous but Steve refuses to turn the car around and take me home, so I guess Iíve got no choice.
05:00 - Check in
Now Iím not sure if you know, but this is my first time outside of Europe. Add to this the fact that I havenít been on an aeroplane for nineteen years, so I'd kind of forgot what it's like. Back then when I was twelve my dad was fairly good at finding the right terminals and gates, and I donít remember doing a lot. So - lots of new experiences. Check in goes without a hitch, so now I just have to wait.
07:00 - Boarding.
I board the plane and now it becomes a bigger wobble. I'm not sure about this. But as soon as we're in the air, I canít help but think how beautiful it is up here. Iím on my way to Madrid!
11:00 (Madrid time)
OK I donít like the landing part. Iím rudely reminded of this fact as I see the ground hurtling towards us, but thankfully Iím fine. Now to get myself quickly to that boarding gate for Miami. Iím starting to question why Iím doing this. But then I quickly remember that this is one of the finest things to ever happen to me. This is way ahead of when I expected it to happen. You see, to get an invitation is for me a recognition of how much I care about my beloved bean. Coffee has given me a job I love and a passion that I didnít think I had in me. Itís given me friends that Iím very lucky to have and now experiences that can't be measured. Iím a lucky guy, so I guess that means that maybe the plane wonít plummet into the Atlantic after all.
12:00 (Madrid time)
Here we go again. Iím going to have to get some sleep on this one. Nine hours in the air doesnít sound much fun. I guess my fear of flying is getting a little boring now, so roll on tomorrow. We want coffee (but not on this plane, where instant is the only choice).
12:30 Miami Time (17:30 UK Time, 18:30 Madrid time, and who knows what time in Timbuktu. )
When was the last time you sat next to a complete stranger for 6 and a half hours and not had anything to achieve? I remember a time around 22 years ago, Iíd be nine at the time when I did have this amount of free time but normally Iím a busy man. Iím like a caged tiger. Iím bothered that this time is going to waste. I must plan some work for on the way back home to keep me occupied. Iíve got at least another 8 and a half hours of travelling, and Iím starting to get ratty. Luckily my son (Shay again) bought me a hip flask and Iím treating myself to a 16 year old malt at the minute. It could be worse.
17:00 Miami Time (22:00 UK time )
Now this is more like It. Iím sitting at a traditional US bar drinking Budweiser (tasting notes to follow). Iím so tired now Iím not even worried about getting on the plane. All is well in the world as Iíve two friends sitting in a bar at the hotel with 2 more beers in for me. Roll on tomorrow so I can start drinking some real caffeine, all this alcohol is no good for me.
20:30 Nicaragua Time (02:30 UK time )
I arrive at the airport and can't see anyone from or anything about the Cup of Excellence. Iím not 100% sure where we are stopping, but I do have a cell phone number to call. Luckily I see someone go past me with a scrunched up piece of paper with ďCupĒ on it, and by luck he takes me to the party. The airport is mad, I must have been offered a taxi 40 times in the space of two minutes.
We leave the airport. I say ďweĒ now as Iím with six other jurors. I've heard of some of their companies. It gets quite scary when they ask how many outlets we have and how many staff we employ. You see Has Bean is a partnership (just me and Sarah (my wife)). We donít employ anyone and only have one site. But it warms me when one of the people tells me they have heard of me (from the US too). We throw our bags in the back of what can only be called a pick up. The driver says my laptop will be OK in the back, so I trust him. The next 45 minutes I spend worrying about it as we go over the roughest terrain imaginable.
The farm where we are stopping is an old coffee plantation, and as we enter : "Ohh my God it's huge" - and very beautiful. It has been turned into a holiday resort, and there are lots of new buildings scattered around. I will include some photos once I get an internet connection. I meet some old friends (the head judge I know as one of the nicest blokes in coffee) and two of the jurors. We're asked whether we want to be taken to our rooms or to the bar. Those who know me wonít need to ask where I went. I love beer nearly as much as coffee so it seemed like the right thing to do.
12:00 Nicaraguan time 06:00 UK time
I make it into the accommodation from the back of one of the pick ups (there are some quad bikes too but with the sleep deprivation and the beer I think it's best someone else takes me).
WOW IíM ROYALTY !!!!!!!
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