This past weekend, the Anaheim Convention Center hosted the United States Barista Championship, with 60 of the nation’s top baristas vying for a single slot in the 2010 World Barista Championship, which will be held in London from June 23-25. Hundreds of people filled the bleachers and seats for Sunday’s finals, which featured three competitors from Intelligentsia, two competitors from Verve Coffee Roasters, and Mike Marquard, a two-time finalist from Kaldi’s Coffee Roasting Company in St. Louis. The field was stacked, with US Barista Champion Michael Phillips, three USBC final veterans and two talented upstarts.
Sara Peterson – Verve Coffee Roasters – Santa Cruz, CA
Peterson opted for a washed Yirgacheffe. She began her presentation by saying, “If it was a season, it would be springtime. If it was a color, it would be yellow.” She highlighted her coffee’s sweet citrus and tropical fruit notes, caramel candy body and silky mouth feel. The aroma: candied lemon and lime, “with a hint of jasmine.” She selected the coffee due it’s clarity, and even named it “Lomi,” which means lemon in Arabic.
For her cappuccinos, Peterson told the judges to expect her Yirgacheffe to present itself as buttery lemon poundcake. Bite into the foam and they’d find the slightest hint of milk chocolate.
Peterson started constructing her signature beverage by squeezing some fresh lemon juice to accentuate her coffee’s “sparkling acidity.” She added the juice to a fresh ginger simple syrup and sparkling water.
In her martini glass, each judge received a dollop of panna, poured with fresh-pulled shots of her Yirgacheffe. Each judge received a spoonful of lemon caramel with sea salt, lemon to bring out the citrus, salt to bring out sweetness of cream. Peterson instructed the judges to eat the lemon caramel from the spoon, then sip her drink.
Charles Babinski – Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea – Chicago, IL
Babinski, who previously competed at the USBC in 2008, told the judges, “Imagine that this table is a coffee farm.” The different lots express fig, marshmallow or lime, depending on the elevation. Each representative ingredient appeared on a wood block pedestal in front of the judges.
Babinski spotlighted three lots from Matalapa in El Salvador, beginning with Cidra grown at 1200 meters, featuring “clean sweet lime and pleasant tartness.” He prepared the Cidra using pourover method, giving the judges (and himself) an “opportunity to align our palates.”
Matalapita espresso was sourced from a lot at 1350 meters. Babinski described “sweet lime, raspberry tartness and silky mouth feel.”
Babinkski then presented Cidra brewed using Cafe Solo.
Matalapita was the basis for his cappuccinos. With milk, “Lime becomes pillowy marshmallow sweetness and brown butter.”
It wasn’t until his signature drink that Babinski introduced the third lot, Puerto Zappa, grown in a valley at 1100 meters. With this lot, he was getting fig and toffee notes. He described his signature beverage as a “celebration of all the flavors on the farm of Matalapa.” Lime custard represented Matalapita. He mixed marshmallow cream with Cidra brewed using the V60 and Puerto Zappa brewed using the Cafe Solo. He instructed the judges to tilt their glasses to get the espresso on top, take a larger tilt, the go full tilt for maximum sweetness.
Mike Marquard – Kaldi’s Coffee Roasting Company – St. Louis, MO
“Variety is the spice of life, but I’m going to spend the next 15 minutes trying to convince you otherwise.” So said Mike Marquard to begin his presentation of a Colombian Monserrate coffee – Caturra and Tipica varietals – grown by 22-year-old Oscar Fernando Medina.
Marquard touted the coffee’s “dazzling acidity,” bergamot and green apple notes. In his espresso shots, he was getting “tart berry, lemon acidity, with a hint of cocoa throughout.” In his cappuccinos, he experienced milkshake and malt.
Marquard focused his presentation on two areas where baristas can improve the coffeehouse experience. 1) “Let’s improve the language we use when describing coffee,” since descriptors like bergamot can intimidate customers. 2) “We need to improve the types of examples we use when customers do take an interest.” His signature beverage presentation echoed his sentiments. He presented two drinks, each divided on a plate by a lemon peel.
His first drink was “an analogy for compromise.” He had the judges flip over yellow cards that listed descriptors for Oscar Fernando Medina’s espresso. “Lemon,” “cream,” “chocolate” and “silky” were highlighted.
The second drink was an “analogy for collaboration.” He brewed grounds from a Monserrate community lot (lots 6-59) using four fresh-pulled shots of espresso and two ounces of hot water. He then had judges flip blue cards to reveal four words that would be good descriptors for customers: “Welcoming, electric, soft, lingering.”
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