From March 5-8, the Oregon Convention Center in Portland hosts 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 Lorenzo Perkins from Caffe Medici in Austin, a South Central Regional Barista Competition Finalist and a contender for the American coffee crown.
Josh Lurie: Did anything surprise you about your regional competition?
Lorenzo Perkins: A lot of things, from the level of competitors to the friendliness and camaraderie that came out of it. Everyone was helping everyone else, like ironing tablecloths and aprons for other competitors and even loaning out cups and equipment. It was a competition, but everyone was there to support everyone else. . . what an awesome thing to be a part of.
JL: Will adjust your approach for the United States Barista Championship? If so, how?
LP: One thing that I plan on doing differently is to put in more practice time. I have the fortunate position of working at a cafe with an extra machine on our bar, so I intend to keep plugging away in every spare moment. Also, honing in on my signature drink will be a big focus. My scores weren’t bad, but they definitely could be better, and the time spent with the judges after the competition was some of the most helpful and insightful barista advice I’ve ever received.
JL: What is your goal at the USBC?
LP: I hope to get as much out of this experience as possible. Not only from a competition standpoint, but as a great opportunity to connect with other coffee people from around the country. Living in Austin doesn’t afford much of an opportunity to share ideas and experiences with a wide range of coffee professionals. Not to say that there aren’t many, but let’s get real… it’s not the Pacific Northwest, yet. Websites like baristaexchange.com and the like have been really helpful in staying in contact with people I’ve met so far, and I just hope to keep that up. And of course, I’m going for the win . . . but with the level of competitors this year, from what I’ve seen and heard, I’d be more than happy with a making it to the finals. This is only my second SCAA sponsored competition after all.
JL: What did you learn by competing at your regional?
LP: A heck of a lot. Having the score sheets is one thing, but having seven people use them on you when the pressure is on is a whole ‘nother ball game. Competing at the regionals really opened my eyes as to what I need to work on and where to focus more of my energy during competition time. I believe the phrase I hear thrown around is “cost/benefit ratio” . . . I’m trying to keep that one in mind. But bottom line, I learned that you’re only as good as your practice. So, do what you know how to do and have fun doing it.
JL: What’s your training schedule like until the USBC?
LP: At least four hours everyday, which is wearing me out. This is on top of working the floor at the cafe as well as running all of our catering business. Hopefully the 2nd and 3rd of March I’ll feel comfortable enough to rest and relax my mind and tamping hand.
JL: What’s a coffeehouse you didn’t know about before your regional competition that you now plan to visit?
LP: I’ve never been to Portland, so there are a lot of shops on my list. From Stumptown, Albina Press, Billy Wilson’s new shop Barista, and anywhere people suggest. One thing about the regionals were that it is hard to get a cup while you’re there (there was a Starbucks downstairs), so hopefully Portland will show me something a little different.
JL: What’s your approach in choosing the music that plays during your performance?
LP: I just want music that I’m comfortable with and has a great beat to work along to. At the regionals it was Led Zeppelin, Daft Punk, and the Cure…I definitely liked how the Daft Punk felt, so expect some more of that action.