From March 5-8, the Oregon Convention Center in Portland is hosting the United States Barista Championship. Leading up to the USBC, I’m showcasing baristas who placed in the Top 6 in their respective region and decided to compete for greater glory. Meet Jesse Bladyka from Coal Creek Coffee Company in Laramie, Wyoming, a Mountain Regional Barista Competition Finalist and a contender for the American coffee crown.
Josh Lurie: Did anything surprise you about your regional competition?
Jesse Bladyka: This was my first competition, so I was surprised all around. It’s so much fun to get together with everyone in the region who loves specialty coffee. The most exciting part of the competition that I found was the sense of camaraderie. We’re all on the same team in so many ways and it’s just a blast to get to know some people in the region.
JL: Will adjust your approach for the United States Barista Championship? If so, how?
JB: Approach? Not much, I’ll try to talk a little less and work a little more, but it’s just about telling my story and serving my coffee and trusting that everyone is going to love it.
JL: What is your goal at the USBC?
JB: I want to put Coal Creek Coffee on the map. They’ve been doing such an awesome job for so long, I just want to draw attention to the fact that we can make some world class coffee at 7200 feet of elevation and in the middle of America. I want to make friends, I want to come back to Wyoming and tell my customers how wonderful and gracious all the competitors were and how many great people I met. Of course I want to do well, but that’s personal.
JL: What did you learn by competing at your regional?
JB: Like I said, it was my first competition so I learned a ton about how these things work. I also learned a fair amount about the coffee in the region and had some wonderful and interesting chats with Gianni about the Aurelia machine.
JL: What’s your training schedule like until the USBC?
JB: I’m headed to Coffeefest in Chicago and I’m bringing my Spro. I’m excited to play on machines down at sea level, it’s been a long time since I was a barista down there, everything is entirely different. Until and after that, every day, every night.
JL: What’s a coffeehouse you didn’t know about before your regional competition that you now plan to visit?
JB: OZO Coffee. Greg Lefcourt (MRBC Winner) and Justin Hartman are such great guys. They were a highlight of the social end of the competition for me and I can’t wait to get down and check out what they do day to day.
JL: What’s your approach in choosing the music that plays during your performance?
JB: It was mellow and instrumental, I used three songs by Tin Hat Trio, but I think I’m going to need something a little more upbeat for Portland. I don’t want to overthink it.