Interview: 2009 USBC Competitor Mike Marquard (Kaldi’s Coffee)

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Photo courtesy of Mike Marquard

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 baristas who placed in the Top 6 in their respective region and decided to compete for greater glory. Meet Mike Marquard from Kaldi’s Coffee Roasting Company in St. Louis, Missouri, a Midwest Regional Barista Competition Finalist and a contender for the American coffee crown.

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

Mike Marquard: It was amazing how seamlessly everything came together in the final week leading up to the competition. I helped plan the event for Kaldi’s, and when it came down to it, wonderful people supported the event and gave the barista team room to practice and focus on the competition. It was also awesome to have three out of region competitors come to the midwest.

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

MM: I won’t change too much – just few tweaks in my presentation to the judges and some equipment changes. The feedback I received from the judges was very positive and helpful, so I’m taking their comments and moving forward.

JL: What is your goal at the USBC?

MM: My goal is to represent Kaldi’s, the midwest, and my coffee in its truest form. I just want to make good coffee.

Learning from others is also key – the more I can meet folks, taste coffees, and see cafes, the better.

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

MM: I’m always surprised how I come off of a competition with more energy than going in. This energy just pushes me to make better coffee and help people find their way to better coffee.

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

MM: I took a week off of training and we did some roasts including a few new varietals. Last week was mostly tasting and some equipment changes. For the next 2.5 weeks, we’ll be putting in practice on capps and spro on the weeknights, and doing run-throughs on the weekend until our hands start to wrinkle from all the dishwashing.

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

MM: I’d like to get to Brooklyn to see TampTamp and also to Lincoln, Nebraska, to see Cultiva.

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

MM: Music means quite a bit to me. I actually play in a band ( and run a small indie label ( with my “loads” of free time. Last year at the USBC in Minneapolis, I used only music from Minnesota artists since that’s where I grew up, but the judges hardly ever notice music unless you mention it, and it’s usually noticed in a negative way. This year I’m just using some of my favorite tunes that help me feel calm and encouraged – Explosions in the Sky, Gnarls Barkley, and Mates of State.


Joshua Lurie

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

Blog Comments

[…] Mike Marquard of the Saint Louis’ Kaldi’s Coffee Roasting Co. stepped into the spotlight soon after I arrived. The red handkerchief in his pocket perfectly matched the tablecloth and the cups he would use to serve his drinks. (Showing a little flair, the apron around his waist pictured a triceratops and the word “booyah.”) […]

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