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. Sara Peterson from The Abbey coffeeart & music lounge in Santa Cruz, 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?
Sara Peterson: I thought it would be a great way to get involved with the coffee community and really fun weekend away with my staff! And I love feeling nervous and speaking in public! And we are bringing cookies for everyone, so there is no backing out now!
JL: How did you become interested in coffee?
SP: My interest was first piqued in 8th grade (in the early ’90s) in the Midwest. My older brother was hanging out at a coffeehouse with his friends, and I thought that was so cool. I have yet to be cool, but I can’t shake the appreciation I have for a cafe where you can lounge with your friends, appreciate good music, see inspiring art, sit and think creative thoughts, or engage with a stranger in conversation. I had several coffee jobs during college but it has just been over the last year that I learned of third-wave coffee and actually tasted delicious espresso! That coupled with the stories I read of farmers, of cafes focusing on sustainability, and doing business in a way that takes care of others—I couldn’t think of doing anything else. Working at the Abbey I have creative license, my staff is my family, and our guests are our friends, and we truly appreciate all the hands along the way that bring us the best coffees, and we love to share them!
JL: What’s your first coffee memory?
SP: Watching my dad empty little creamer containers one after the other, into his coffee until it went from dark brown to a light creamy tan. I would stack the plastic containers into pyramids.
JL: Do you have an espresso mentor? If so, who are they and what did they teach you?
SP: The Verve crew, and Ryan O’D, for his training. Overall he has shown a high standard for quality, and he’s humble and so un-coffee-snobby even though they have the best coffees around and are super pro. I like that! Happy coffee friends make good wholesalers and roastmasters!
JL: What did you do to prepare for the competition?
SP: Lots of push-ups, and I arm-wrestled lots of customers…you get points for strength right??
JL: Outside of your coffeehouse, what’s your favorite coffeehouse in the U.S., and what do you like about it?
SP: I don’t have a favorite, there are little things about most places that I can appreciate. I do however frequent Verve on every day off that I have. Mmmmm!
JL: Other than yourself, who do you think has a good shot at becoming WRBC champ?
SP: Anyone really…unless it’s rigged :o)
JL: If you didn’t work in the coffee industry, what would you do for a living?
SP: I would probably buy lottery tickets (the scratchers), and go on The Price is Right, until I win big. Then I would move to a cabin with my husband and we would raise goats, and grow blueberries, and have a fancy vegetable garden.