Interview: 2009 USBC Competitor January Vawter (Blend Coffee)

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Barista Portland

Photo courtesy of January Vawter

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 January Vawter from Blend Coffee in Portland, Oregon.

1. Did anything surprise you about your regional competition?
The whole experience was pretty surprising. Going into the comp I was overwhelmed and intimidated. But ultimately the people were all very supportive and approachable.

2. Will adjust your approach for the United States Barista Championship? If so, how?
My performance is going to be all about replicating what you’d experience at our shop. A real person serving killer beans. At the NWRBC I didn’t feel like myself during the service. It felt . . . contrived. Staying true my real personality will, hopefully, allow more passion to show.

3. What is your goal at the USBC?

4. What did you learn by competing at your regional?
It would take far to long to even begin to list. Obviously I learned a lot that will be helpful in future competitions, but the more rewarding lessons were those I could take back to the shop. Since the NWRBC I have been focused on delivering great service. Being present and engaging customers. They definitely appreciate the new level of professionalism and dedication.

5. What’s your training schedule like until the USBC?
Lots of after hours training. There’s not a whole lot of sleeping going on. Lots of mental preparation, visualization, meditation. That’s really what I credit with my lack of nerves at the NWRBC.

6. What’s a coffeehouse you didn’t know about before your regional competition that you now plan to visit?
There weren’t a lot of shops I hadn’t heard of, as the NW coffee scene is pretty tight. But putting faces to the names was awesome. One of these days I really need to make the trek out Vantucky way to see Claire’s shop.

7. What’s your approach in choosing the music that plays during your performance?
I devour music, so it was agonizing trying to decide what to play. I stumbled across this track . . . Lykke Li vs The Hood Internet . . . that was just over 15 minutes long. It became my “end-of-shift-mopping” tunes and seemed too perfect for competition. Upbeat. Bass heavy. Got lucky on that.


Joshua Lurie

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

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