Interview: 2009 USBC Competitor Les Stoneham (La Terza Coffee)

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Barista Cincinnati

Photo courtesy of Les Stoneham

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 Les Stoneham from La Terza Coffee in Cincinnati, Ohio, the 2009 Great Lakes Regional Barista Competition Finalist.

1. Did anything surprise you about your regional competition?
– I’ve done some signature drinks in the past that I’ve enjoyed, but the judges haven’t so much. This year’s is a bit bolder but was really well received by everyone.

2. Will adjust your approach for the United States Barista Championship? If so, how?
– I definitely will change a couple things in the routine. The judge’s feedback was a huge help and I can’t help but to play around with things so everything is up for a bit of tweaking.

3. What is your goal at the USBC?
– I really love the espresso we’ve been working on for this and just want to represent the coffee well and the great work that master roaster, Chuck Pfahler, at La Terza does. That being said I believe this coffee ranks with the best out there so I’ll do my best to get it there.

4. What did you learn by competing at your regional?
– As much as you try to script out things to say, you never know what will come out of your mouth when there are judges staring at you… or emcees. And to really do well, it takes having a great team of fellow baristas and friends around you to prepare and push you.

5. What’s your training schedule like until the USBC?
– I have lots of real world work to catch up on in time to get out to the USBC, but there will be lots of late night run-throughs for the next week. And I’ll get a lot of practice doing some sig drink specials for customers in order to raise some funds to pay for the trip

6. What’s a coffeehouse you didn’t know about before your regional competition that you now plan to visit?
– MadCap Coffee in Grand Rapids. It sounds like a great new addition to the coffee culture in the Great Lakes and we seem to share similar philosophies in our approach to the craft and community of coffee.

7. What’s your approach in choosing the music that plays during your performance?
– Timing and mood. From years of working at a café/ music venue, music and coffee are invariably linked for me.


Joshua Lurie

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

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