Interview: Barista Ross Barclay (Toby’s Coffee Bar)

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Barista California

Photo courtesy of Ross Barclay

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. Ross Barclay from Toby’s Coffee Bar in Point Reyes Station, California, 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?

Ross Barclay: This March, I will have been a barista for 6 years and I’ve always loved what I do, so I decided to show the world what I am all about, so I am competing in the Western Regional Barista Competition.

JL: How did you become interested in coffee?

RB: I applied at this cafe one day as a waiter with zero restaurant experience. They said that they didn’t have any waiting positions available, but they do have a position available as a barista. I learned how to make espresso drinks and fell in love with being a barista from day one.

JL: What’s your first coffee memory?

RB: I loved hot chocolates and I heard that a mocha is a hot chocolate “with a kick” (as I like to call it). I tried one and it was so tasty and smooth that I became a mocha man instantly.

JL: Do you have an espresso mentor? If so, who are they and what did they teach you?

RB: After making espresso beverages for 2 years, I had a boss that taught me how to steam milk and poor a heart into the milk. After pouring heart after heart for so long, I got board and started teaching myself how to do different designs. I taught myself how to create about 300 designs over the course of about a year and a half. Yes some of the designs are only slightly different from each other, but they are all different designs. I then wanted to expand my latte Art, so I went onto the internet and came across the Rosetta style latte. I watched how it was done and on day 2 of teaching myself after watching it on the internet, I am able to poor beautiful Rosetta flowers and up to 5 Rosetta flowers in the same cup.

JL: What did you do to prepare for the competition?

RB: I let my mind go to work and I practiced after hours at Toby’s Coffee Bar.

JL: Outside of your coffeehouse, what’s your favorite coffeehouse in the U.S., and what do you like about it?

RB: My favorite coffee shop to go to is San Anselmo Coffee Roasters.

JL: Other than yourself, who do you think has a good shot at becoming WRBC champ?

RB: I’ve heard and seen good things from Chris Baca, so I feel that he is fully capable of being a WRBC champ.

JL: If you didn’t work in the coffee industry, what would you do for a living?

RB: There isn’t anything else in the world that I would want to do other than be in the coffee industry. If I never could make another coffee drink again, I would teach people how to make the espresso beverages that I am capable to creating, so that my technique would live on.


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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