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 contenders for the American coffee crown. Meet Jesse Crouse, a 2009 Great Lakes Regional Barista Competition Finalist from Intelligentsia Coffee in Chicago.
Josh Lurie: Did anything surprise you about your regional competition?
Jesse Crouse: To be perfectly honest, placing 2nd surprised me a lot. This was my first time competing and just making the finals was big news, so when my name was called for the 2nd place trophy, I was pretty pumped.
JL: Will adjust your approach for the United States Barista Championship? If so, how?
JC: I’m only adjusting it slightly. I feel that with only a week left before the competition, I would be shooting myself in the foot to change too much.
JL: What is your goal at the USBC?
JC: My goal is to do better than I have previously. I want to show progression in the field, and not that I had one good go in me.
JL: What did you learn by competing at your regional?
JC: I learned that competing is nerve racking, for sure. I couldn’t stop pacing around before and after going out there. I also learned that there are some stellar barista in this area, and it is awesome to watch them go out there and be proud of their coffee.
JL: What’s your training schedule like until the USBC?
JC: My training is going to be hard to come by, I work in the quality control lab, and we are seeing sample flying in everyday now. So basically I have just entered the busy season in my job, and now have to stay busy with competition training. At least training means making coffee, and not running around a track or on a treadmill, though I may work that into my routine, because at the very least they won’t be able to say I didn’t run fast.
JL: What’s a coffeehouse you didn’t know about before your regional competition that you now plan to visit?
JC: MadCap and Ugly Mug. MadCap is in Grand Rapids, Trevor placed third in the region and he is the owner there, I am excited to get out there. Ugly Mug has some pretty cool folks working for it, so I really want to go visit them too.
JL: What’s your approach in choosing the music that plays during your performance?
JC: I really want music that sounds like me and represents who I am as a person. I needed something quiet for the first minute and half or so, and so I chose a short instrumental piece by Summer Hymns and looped it. I also really wanted a song that kicks in nicely to start when I have to pull my first set of shots, so I chose this killer Midlake song called “Kingfish Pies” which makes me move every time.