Interview: 2009 USBC Competitor Michael Phillips (Intelligentsia)

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Photo courtesy of Michael Phillips

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 Michael Phillips, a Great Lakes Regional Barista Competition Finalist from Intelligentsia Coffee in Chicago.

Joshua Lurie: Did anything surprise you about your regional competition?

Michael Phillips: How high the bar for the great lakes has risen. This region was always tough but now n days it’s just flat out fierce.

JL: Will adjust your approach for the United States Barista Championship? If so, how?

MP: I am doing a bit of barista acrobatics during my fifteen minutes and during the great lakes I let that distract me too much by talking about what I was doing with the coffee as opposed to talking about how it was going to taste. At the USBC I am going to focus a little more on telling the judges what to expect in the cup.

JL: What is your goal at the USBC?

MP: I feel that not everyone knows about the advances coffee in this region has been making and simply being a competitor from here showing that we do serious coffee and representing well on a national level is the main thing for me.

JL: What did you learn by competing at your regional?

MP: Nothing comes easy and my intuition is usually wrong.

JL: What’s your training schedule like until the USBC?

MP: Being a great lakes competitor (our comp was this past weekend) I have about enough time to go to the bathroom, read the funnies while I am in there and pack up to leave when I get out. So basically every second I can when I am not on bar will be spent in the lab tweaking things.

JL: What’s a coffeehouse you didn’t know about before your regional competition that you now plan to visit?

MP: I have been reaching out to people in this region for awhile so I knew most of them but the recently opened MadCap Coffee in Michigan is my next local trip. Pictures of the look awesome and they do good work (Trevor the owner took 3rd in the region)

JL: What’s your approach in choosing the music that plays during your performance?

MP: I gotta feel it. I also like to pick things that match pace with the routine. I am starting this years off with a track by Sebastien Tellier that is smooooth electronic with a big beat and end with a friend of mine Lindsey Czechowicz’s acoustic track Chicago, markedly different but it all works in it’s place.


Joshua Lurie

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

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[…] Michael Phillips of Chicago’s Intelligentsia Coffee won the championship and will represent the United States in the World Barista Championship in Atlanta, Ga. April 16-19. […]

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