From January 23-25, top baristas from California and Hawaii will converge on Los Angeles to compete at the Western Regional Barista Competition. The winner scores a coveted slot in the Semi-Finals of the 2009 United States Barista Championship. Kan Hasegawa of Café Abir in San Francisco is one barista you’ll find competing at Western Regional Barista Competition at downtown L.A.’s Spring Arts Tower.
Josh Lurie: Why did you decide to compete in the WRBC?
Kan Hasegawa: Basically, I wanted to improve my coffee making skills. So, by participating such a great competition, I hope I can push myself little higher. And also it’s exciting to meet great other baristas.
Besides coffee; Well, you know, Ninja don’t talk too much. We hide, we sneak, and we are quiet in public. So, it is biggest challenge for me “barista ninja” to be in the stage.
JL: How did you become interested in coffee?
KH: My mom… she always treats me with Coffee. Every snack time since I was in elementary school, I had a piece of chocolate and straight black coffee, while my friends had coke and popcorns everyday. My body was caffeinated since I was a kid.
JL: What’s your first coffee memory?
KH: “nmggg!!!?! “Mom! can I put some sugar?” “NO!”
JL: Do you have an espresso mentor? If so, who are they and what did they teach you?
KH: No, nobody. Unfortunately, everything is “Self-taught.”
But, Bruce Lee and sho Kosugi are always my great mentor in any category. Everything, I learn from them. So I’m not ashamed to say they are my espresso mentor as well.
JL: What did you do to prepare for the competition?
KH: Work at café as usual.
Read rule manual.
Watch Bruce lee’s masterpiece DVD “Enter the Dragon”
A lot of Meditation.
Try not to stress out…
JL: Outside of your coffeehouse, what’s your favorite coffeehouse in the U.S., and what do you like about it?
KH: I like Ritual, Blue Bottle, and new place, Four Barrel. I like the coffee and also their mood.
JL: Other than yourself, who do you think has a good shot at becoming WRBC champ?
KH: I’m not familiar with anyone yet, so I don’t know. I guess anybody who comes back from the previous competitions would have better potential. Luckily Bruce Lee was not in the competition. So chances are to anybody. I’m not too worried about.
JL: If you didn’t work in the coffee industry, what would you do for a living?
KH: Either, a chess player, graphic artist, or Landscape architecture. It’s fascinating!