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 Robin Crosby from Coal Creek Coffee Company in Laramie, Wyoming, a Mountain Regional Barista Competition Finalist and a contender for the American coffee crown.
Josh Lurie: Did anything surprise you about your regional competition?
Robin Crosby: I think that the biggest thing that surprised me about the MRBC was that the turn out. We had a great turn out, but I was expecting a bit more. Last year there are 30 or so competitors. I thought that there would be at least that many this year. I was also pleasantly surprised with all the new faces. Sure we say a lot of wonderful people from last year, but I think almost half were new.
JL: Will adjust your approach for the United States Barista Championship? If so, how?
RC: There are a few things that I am going to change, but not to much. Much of the layout will be the same. One big thing that I learned is that you do not need to be talking the whole time. The judges like when you are talking to them and not the machine. I learned this the hard way. I am trying to condense what I have to say so I can get all the important stuff in while facing the judges and still have enough time. My signature drink has changed a bit. All the same ingredients, but a few small changes to make it better. That’s about it for now, but you never know.
JL: What is your goal at the USBC?
RC: This is going to sound cheesy, but I just want to have fun. The first year was such a blast. There was not pressure and just fun. This year was great but i psyched myself out a bit before the finals and I did not have as much fun as I wanted. Of course I would like to get a good score and have a smooth performance, but I have told my self that I am going to be calm and just try to have as much fun as I can. After that all the rest is gravy.
JL: What did you learn by competing at your regional?
RC: First I learned that there are some great baristas out there with some great ideas and some great coffee. As for the competition and my performance, the judges really like it when you are dong thins in front of them so they can see you. I think this is a great way to keep them involved. I think that for a lot of baristas, that 15 minutes goes by really fast, but I am not sure that it is the same for the judges. You need something to distinguish your self from the others. This also really helps with the crowd and keeping the interested and engaged. It lets them remember you.
JL: What’s your training schedule like until the USBC?
RC: Not a rigorous as I would really like, but I have run through my routine multiple times and have been perfecting my signature drink and espresso. I think the best way is to be at the espresso machine in front of your customers. We have been making our signature drinks for many of our customers and having them tell us what they think and where we can improve. We really have been trying to make it more of a community event and I think our customers have really enjoyed being a part of it.
JL: What’s a coffeehouse you didn’t know about before your regional competition that you now plan to visit?
RC: I will definitely go to Ozo Coffee, in Boulder, where Greg works and of course to Cafe Sole to see Emily, Erik, the rest of the crew. I have only been to boulder for the competition so I can wait to get down there for some fun.
JL: What’s your approach in choosing the music that plays during your performance?
RC: Honestly, I wanted to play something that I really liked. Something I like playing in the Coal Creek. I started with a list of about 20 and narrowed that down. I ended up going only with one band, John Butler Trio. Last year the music was all over the board and someone if was quite distracting. I wanted something that was calming, but not so boring that it would put everyone to sleep.