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 Joshua Flail from Octane Coffee in Atlanta, Georgia, the 2009 South East Regional Barista Competition Finalist.
Josh Lurie: Did anything surprise you about your regional competition?
Joshua Flail: Being a first time competitor in the 2009 SERBC, I was really taken aback by the whole experience. It was intense, and yet I felt comfortable among the coffee crowd. Coffee brews good people.
JL: Will adjust your approach for the United States Barista Championship? If so, how?
JF: I’ve made only slight modifications to both my signature beverage and speech. Mainly, I hope to get across how the blend I’ve chosen is perfect for the milk I’m using and all the drinks I make. In watching the other finalists in the SERBC, I found that conveying one’s knowledge of and familiarity with the espresso is nearly as important as pulling stellar shots.
JL: What is your goal at the USBC?
JF: My goals at the USBC are to socialize with more coffee geeks, and to have a good time performing.
JL: What did you learn by competing at your regional?
JF: I learned that I still have a lot to learn, but that my passion for making great drinks does come through during those 15 minutes in front of the judges.
JL: What’s your training schedule like until the USBC?
JF: Ha! I’m the nighttime operations manager at Octane, which means I strive hard to keep the bar stocked with unique Belgian beers, plan the events and art openings, and handle all the promotion. Oh, did I mention I’m a full-time student working on a Bachelor degree in Film? Luckily, my boss has been good about covering parts of my shifts so “Coach” Ben Helfen and I can get in a few hours at the Counter Culture Training Center. Thanks, Tony!
JL: What’s a coffeehouse you didn’t know about before your regional competition that you now plan to visit?
JF: I know so little about the coffee world outside of Octane. Prior to working here I had been a graphic designer and bar manager. My coffee experience was limited to ordering it. So, I’m interested in visiting all the shops just to compare and contrast how they operate… and challenge the baristas to latte art throwdowns.
JL: What’s your approach in choosing the music that plays during your performance?
JF: A lot of people told me they really enjoyed the music I played during my two rounds in the regional. I actually create a mix of four songs in an editing program, making sure the total time is just under fifteen minutes. As for how I choose the songs, it’s just whatever keeps me moving. You gotta get on the good foot when you’re doing what you do.