Chris Baca – Verve Coffee Roasters – Santa Cruz, CA
“My name is Chris, and I love barista competitions.” That’s how the 2008 fourth-place finisher began his performance.
Baca went with Elida, a naturally processed coffee from Boquete, Panama. He started by preparing six signature beverages, one for each sensory judge, one for the head judge and one for himself. had “strawberry sweetness,” with a “bittersweet chocolate finish.” Given his coffee’s “incredible sweetness,” he decided to mimic a chocolate covered strawberry for his signature beverage. He poured fresh strawberry reduction into the bottom of each glass, “simple, clean, juicy.” Due to the lingering “bittersweet chocolate finish,” he then added crème anglaise infused with 70% dark chocolate. He poured espresso as the top layer, then flamed an orange peel over each drink. He instructed judges to take one small sip off the top for natural sweetness, a second sip for Elida and bittersweet chocolate, and a third sip for the “strawberry snap.”
Baca had mirrored “placemats” in front of each judge featuring key information: “Catuai varietal,” “dry processed,” “Boquete Panama” and “Lamastus family.” Also, Elida Espresso: “chocolate covered strawberry” and Elida Cappuccino: “chocolate, cheesecake, strawberry.”
This is the first year that Baca had direct contact with a producer, Wilford Lamastus. In early 1900s, Lamastus’ great grandfather moved from the U.S. to Panama, met a woman named Elida and bought a farm.
For the Elida as an espresso, Baca instructed judges to stir the shot thoroughly before drinking. He predicted a “strawberry snap up front, followed by bittersweet chocolate that will last for some time.” He finished by making the judges Elida cappuccinos.
Michael Phillips – Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea – Chicago, IL
The defending U.S. champ spotlighted three coffees from Costa Rica with a number of similarities. Each coffee involved Cattura and Catuai varietals grown at 1500-1800 meters at the Coopedota cooperative. However, he went with three different processes, three different roasts, three different grinds and three different extraction methods.
He prepared his washed coffee as espresso, bring out “bright tart cherry and sparkling mouth feel.”
Phillips prepared the honey processed (pulp natural) coffee as a cappuccino since it’s “all sweetness and body.” In cappuccino, the coffee features “Nice Graham cracker notes and it will drop down into a peanut butter.”
The Coopedota cooperative hosts a roasting works and two cafes. Phillips visited last February to work with baristas.
Phillips presented three signature beverages side-by-side-by-side. To his full natural processed coffee, he added tart cherry and mineral water. His honey processed coffee was combined with date and Muscovado sugar reduction. Finally, Phillips pulled shots of washed coffee directly on top of ginger and rhubarb reduction.
In his post wrap with Stephen Morrissey, Phillips says that one of the reasons he competes is to become a better barista: “I try to find a skill that I want to learn and build it into a routine.”
Devin Pedde – Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea – Los Angeles, CA
Pedde, a 2009 USBS Finalist, decided to look at a single coffee through different lenses. The coffee he selected: Cidra from Finca Matalapa in El Salvador.
He selected two options to the judges, one that’s “silky, lots of tangerine and fruit punch finish,” the other with “rich, heavier, apricot notes.” The judges selected the latter and Pedde got to work on his espressos.
He said the crema would be “hazelnut, dark brown, with a reddish inflection.” Pedde predicted apricot up front, then lime and a lingering dried apricot finish.
For his cappuccinos, Pedde described the coffee as “very sweet and articulate, punches right through the milk.” The effect: “apricot mango smoothie, and it’s so delicious you wish it came in a 20-ounce size.”
For his signature beverage, Pedde added a reduction of muscovado sugar and apricot at bottom to the bottom of his glasses, echoing the espresso’s “lovely apricot sweetness.” He made sure to point out to the judges that the signature beverage was “just an exaggeration of what’s already in the coffee.” For texture and mouth feel, he spooned on yogurt mixed with blood orange juice. He finished by pouring Cidra up top.
“Just a few years ago, I was just learning that coffees from other countries taste different,” said Pedde. “[With coffees like this], coffee’s going to take it’s rightful place in the culinary heights.”
After the judges’ deliberation and the usual progression of sponsor shoutouts, USBC Finalists lined up to await the announcement from MCs Stephen Morrissey and Heather Perry, former World and United States Barista Champions. Drumroll, and…
…Michael Phillips repeats as United States Barista Champion with 701 points. Chris Baca was second with 671 points. Devin Pedde placed third with 646 points. Sara Peterson was fourth, Charles Babinski scored fifth and Mike Marquard was sixth in the nation.
For his efforts, Phillips received a champion’s trophy courtesy of Reg Barber Enterprises, $600 in cash from the Specialty Coffee Association of America and $5000 from Da Vinci Gourmet to travel to London to compete in World Barista Championship. Phillips also received some surprise rewards, highlighted by origin trips to Peru and Guatemala.