Interview: Lorenzo Perkins: 2010 South Central Regional Barista Champion

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Photo courtesy of Lorenzo Perkins

From April 15-18, 2010, Anaheim is hosting the United States Barista Championship. Leading up to the competition, Food GPS is showcasing regional barista champions. Learn about Lorenzo Perkins, a contender for the American coffee crown from Caffe Medici in Austin, Texas.

What is it about coffee that inspires you?

A continual pursuit of a nearly unattainable perfection. Coffee, espresso even more so, is such a dynamic process, from growing and processing to roasting and extracting that being able to show a consistent mastery of these is a never ending struggle. There is always something that can be done better.

What did you learn by competing at the regional competition?

The regionals are the dress rehearsals for the USBC, so a lot has to be tried and learned from competing at the regional level. This is where you have the opportunity to put your entire routine together and receive great feedback from the judges. What I took away from this year was where I needed to hone my presentation and explanation as well as seeing the potential for improvement on my sensory score sheets.

Did anything catch you off guard at the regional?

The level of competitors this year was extremely high. I know that every year, the competitions get tougher as we as a community perfect our craft, but I didn’t know by how much we as a region had grown. There were definitely some competitors this year who came out of seemingly no where and surprised us all.

Do you plan to change your approach at all for the USBC? If so, how?

Like I said before, the regional is a dress rehearsal for the USBC, so my only game plan is to do better. This means refining my presentation, honing in on my espresso and cappuccinos as well as trying to improve on the technical side of the scoresheets.

What’s your goal at the USBC?

To represent my region as best as I can. The South Central is one of the forgotten cousins of the SCAA, and my hope is to change peoples viewpoint on our region. This year, we will have six competitors from the South Central representing at the USBC, the most in the history of the competition. I just want all of us to do well and earn some respect for what we are doing down here.

What’s the key to a great signature beverage?

Bottom line, make it tasty. Don’t get too crazy and try to be as “out there” as you can, but utilize the espresso and its nuances to craft a truly culinary drink that shows your respect and understanding for what is inherent to the bean.

What’s your approach when choosing music for competitions?

I want music that will make me comfortable on stage, without being too distracting to the judges. At the regional I chose Jay Z D.O.A, some Blackalicious, and some Mos Def. It is music with a rhythm and a groove, while at the same time maintaining a sense of fun and personality.

Was there a coffeehouse you didn’t know about before the regional that
you now want to try?

Since we are such a young region, most everyone knows everyone else. The big surprise for me was seeing the competitors from Louisiana show up to represent. Next time I’m in New Orleans, I plan to hang out with the S.N.O.B. krewe.

If you could only drink one more cup of coffee, what would it be?

You’re killing me here. If it was my last cup of coffee, some delicious Kenya from Counter Culture would hit the spot, but if it was the same cup for the rest of my life, probably whatever Aida Battle or Jose Antonio Salaverria were cooking up down in El Salvador. Their coffees continue to please and surprise me.


Joshua Lurie

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

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