Interview: Barista Steven Lorenzen (Barefoot Coffee)

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Barista San Jose

Photo courtesy of Steven Lorenzen

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. Steven Lorenzen from Barefoot Coffee in San Jose 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?

Steven Lorenzen: I decided to compete this year because it will be a great opportunity to meet baristas from all over and learn some new tricks as well as try different coffees from people with all sorts of ideas of what makes good coffee.

JL: How did you become interested in coffee?

SL: My parents don’t drink coffee but I was drawn to it as a high school student who likes to procrastinate and found the cafe at which I currently work through the local music scene and our rockin’ open mic night.

JL: What’s your first coffee memory?

SL: The first one I’ll admit to is the day Barefoot was giving away free espresso and they told me that it tasted good, it wasn’t just for the caffeine. Completely altered the course of my life.

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

SL: The wonderful Emma S. from Barefoot Coffee Roasters who has run away to Ohio for school or somesuch and abandoned us here. She taught me how to make delicious coffee and deal with clients and other employees and the universe as a whole. She is exactly the reason I am where I am today.

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

SL: It started with commitment to the decision. It isn’t something to do lightly. I worked with some of our new blends and decided which one I wanted to use, then I spent an entire day with just me, an aurelia (the espresso machine) and my coffee and experimented with it and found the flavours I wanted out of it. After that I worked with a couple of other Barefoot baristas in developing a signature beverage. Then I spent another few days fine tuning it and working on Cappuccino technique. I’ve been working on presentation and workflow for the last couple days and I’ll continue to fine tune and adjust right up until they call my name and I step up to the machine.

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

SL: I too am a fan of Ritual in San Francisco, I like getting espresso that is different from Barefoot espresso and Ritual delivers super nice creamy shots whenever I see their baristas.

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

SL: I don’t know really, I think anyone who really knows their coffee on a deep and satisfying emotional level will be able to put it together and present it in a way that doesn’t interfere with the coffee itself.

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

SL: When asked at the dinner table I’d say that I was “in computers” and I really enjoy both hardware and software, IT and development and home to make my riches “in computers” in order to sponsor my own cafe.


Joshua Lurie

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

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