Interview: 2009 USBC Competitor David Sapp

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Barista Charleston

From March 5-8, the Oregon Convention Center in Portland is hosting the 2009 United States Barista Championship. Leading up to the USBC, I’m showcasing baristas who decided to compete for the American coffee crown. Meet David Sapp, an independent competitor from Charleston, South Carolina.

1. Did anything surprise you about your regional competition?
The level of competition was improved over last year, the venue was strikingly good, and the provided grinder was impressive enough to make me use it instead of the one I brought to use.

2. Will adjust your approach for the United States Barista Championship? If so, how?
Not really…I’m just taking feedback I got at regionals and seeking to incorporate it. I modified the sig bev recipe and presentation. Otherwise I just want to polish up.

3. What is your goal at the USBC?
To cut my time in half…literally. Last year I had issues that resulted in the record-setting (I think) time of 29:32. I don’t want to repeat that. Otherwise, I’d like to be the highest scoring independent to ever enter the competition.

4. What did you learn by competing at your regional?
That I can compete without getting disqualified. I still went over on time, but managed to cut myself off before the 16:01 mark. Being an independent makes it more of a challenge to get bar time, so you lose your hands and have to compete on limited practice…my policy in this and about everything is to do the best I can with what I have to work with.

5. What’s your training schedule like until the USBC?
At this point I’ve shipped my wares to Portland, so it’s just going to be a matter of going through my script, ironing my napkins, etc. After my regional, my normal practice venue got cut off for reasons unknown to me, but I found another…props to Michelle Hoban of Muddy Waters Coffee Bar in Charleston for rolling out the red carpet. She let me use her FB80 to get bar time and rescued my chances of doing well.

6. What’s a coffeehouse you didn’t know about before your regional competition that you now plan to visit?
Method in Atlanta, 1000 Faces Coffee in Athens, GA, etc.

7. What’s your approach in choosing the music that plays during your performance?
Of course the judges are the ones to please, but a Barista competition should be an entertaining thing to watch. I hate watching an otherwise good routine with otherwise boring music. That’s one reason I chose music that someone might actually like. I’ve got Muse, Justin Timberlake, Snoop Dogg, and (yes) Roy Ayers. I enjoy the music I chose, I hope the people watching enjoy it, and frankly I don’t care what the judges think–it’s (generally) appropriate and (technically) not scored. The judges get the script, and the audience gets the music.


Joshua Lurie

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

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