Western Regional Barista Competition (Day 2)

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Barista Competition Los Angeles

The 2009 Western Regional Barista Competition takes place in downtown Los Angeles. Day 2 helps to determine Sunday’s six finalists.

1. Louie Poore – Zoka Coffee – Seattle, WA

Poore competed out of region, since Seattle resides in the Northwest. As a result, he was unable to qualify for the United States Barista Championship through the WRBC.

Zoka’s Palladino, a two-bean blend of Brazilian Cerrado and Ethiopian Sidamo. Brazilian helps round out fruit notes and bring in some brown sugar.

Made sauce last night with blueberries and mint leaves. Pull shots with that, then add crème anglaise, which has heavy, musky brown sugar sweetness. Stir and try to finish it within two sips.

2. Nick Griffith – Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea – Los Angeles, CA

Griffith focused on “sweetness,” saying, “One of the sweetness coffees I’ve tasted all year is Maravilla, from Huehuetenago, Guatemala, farmed by the Morales family. Start sipping, you’ll get Clementine with citrus, then juicy citrus, followed by cocoa butter. Washed process coffee brings balance of flavors. The eastern facing hill gets high sunshine in the morning and low light in the afternoon, leading to concentrated sweetness. The high altitude – 2000 meters – is also an important factor. The coffee is fairly light, with an Agtron reading of 65.

Typically you get one cup for a signature drink. This year: three, combined at the end. Start with cream whipped with vanilla bean, some sugar, and just a splash of orange blossom, to isolate aromatic citrus you get on nose of the coffee. Take a whiff to get aromatics. For the second portion, espresso with puree of Medjool dates. 1.5 tablespoons in each cup, combined with the shot. Take a whiff to get aromatics. Pour espresso-date mixture into the cream. Swirl to get the full color.

3. Sara Peterson – The Abbey coffeeart & music lounge – Santa Cruz, CA

A blend from cross-town Verve Coffee Roasters: Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, Sumatra and Brazil. Peterson pointed out the bittersweet chocolate notes from Sumatra, apricot from Ethiopia and buttery caramel from Brazil.

“For the cappuccinos, note the caramel and bittersweet chocolate.”

Peterson instructed the judges to take the espresso shot in one sip, predicting bittersweet chocolate and “fruit forward apricot.”

For “The Benediction,” Peterson began by mixing a vanilla cream base using heavy cream, fine sugar and half of a vanilla bean. “I wanted to draw on the notes in The Sermon (as the espresso blend is called). The apricot is really going to come through in this vanilla.” Peterson made a chocolate sauce with Ghirardelli semi-sweet and Scharffenberger bittersweet chocolate “whose tang mimics acidity in The Sermon.” The next sauce: burnt caramel. Use a copper pot and burn sugar, add Karo, butter and heavy cream. “It’s bittersweet, smoky and has buttery taste that you’ve already experienced in The Servant. On top of this, pull a single shot of espresso. Melt it all together…It’s kind of like espresso affogato.” Stir and mix all of the layers together.

4. Kan “The Barista Ninja” Hasegawa – Café Abir – San Francisco, CA

A blend of five beans: Sumatra (dark roasted with heavy body), Colombian and Panama (both roasted medium dark for good acidity and nice soft cocoa finish), Kenya (roasted medium dark for dark cherry) and Ethiopia (roasted light with a floral aroma).

A drinkable espresso jelly that utilizes a mix of egg yolk, cream cheese and sugar.

5. Philip Kim – LAMILL COFFEE – Los Angeles, CA

Kim’s blend combines three components from three different regions: Serra do Boné from Brazil (dark chocolate, caramel butter), Ethiopia Misty Valley (for added complexity) and Sumatra from the Gayo region.

Kim lined the bottom of his glasses with fresh squeezed orange juice jelly, then whipped cream infused with Earl Grey tea. Pour an espresso shot on top. Stir, and they’re all supposed to mix, but the jelly stayed put.

6. Michael Porter – Anazao Coffee Co. – Imperial, CA

The same blend that Ozzie Ortiz used, a blend featuring Sumatra, Huehuetenago from Guatemala, Ethiopian (natural Wondobonko) and Brazil (natural yellow Bourbon).

Porter infused cream with apples, local honey and cinnamon, then poured espresso shots. “Growing up in small agricultural town, I wanted to do something personal to represent where I’m from.”

7. Renee Teichen – Ritual Coffee Roasters – San Francisco, CA

Maria Millaños grows coffee in Via Maria, Colombia. Her family farm, Finca Mariana, has been a model of sustainability. They grow plantains, sugar cane and most importantly in this case, coffee. Maria has also made efforts to show other coffee producers techniques in sustainability, including composting and water treatment. Teichen chose a micro-lot called Nariño, featuring an “incredible rosemary aroma.” She explained that due to the particularly small size of the farm, you get brown sugar, since only the brightest cherries are selected. “Due to the high elevation, you’ll find crisp cherry acidity in the finish.”

“When combined with milk, fudge notes melt away into a delicate maple sweetness.”

A two-part experience. Teichen provided each judge with an aromatic sample plate holding ground Nariño, a sprig of aromatic rosemary and a chopped sample of 55% dark chocolate from San Francisco, due to its acidity. The second part: the drink itself, prepared with ganache combining the chocolate found on the plate. “Ganache strengthens fudge flavors.” She added shots of Nariño, then layered whipped cream infused with Nariño. [The whipped cream] “balances texture and rounds out the Nariño’s brown sugar sweetness.” Stir it thoroughly, lean down and inhale aromatics, then drink.

8. Devin Pedde – Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea – Los Angeles, CA

Pedde chose a washed-process Yirgacheffe coffee grown at 1900 meters in Ethiopia. It’s a cooperative coffee, meaning it combines different micro-lots.

For the cappuccinos, adding milk to the coffee created a “jammy texture.”

Pedde presented the judges with dishes of ingredients he’s been tasting in the coffee, including cherries, figs, dried persimmons and dates. He pour a shot of espresso, sipped and said, “I just tasted the coffee and will use ingredients to exaggerate the flavor of the coffee,” starting with brown sugar, strawberries (which he found strawberry sweetness at the bottom) and dried persimmon. Pedde created a fruit infusion to add to the signature drink. He warned the judges: “There’s going to be some fire, there’s going to be movement. Don’t be nervous.” He lit the burner, which harnesses the flavors of the fruit. “I wanted to create a coffee forward beverage, mimic the flavors…The sweetness will be enhanced by the brown sugar and strawberries, and the brightness of the coffee will be heightened by the persimmon.”

9. Hannah Kram – Caffe Mediterraneum – Berkeley, CA

Element blend from Barefoot, composed of five beans, including Guatemala Finca Vista Hermosa, India Jasmina, Brazil Montecristo, Ethiopian Dominion and Java.

Kram poured a shot of espresso into a three-ounce cup and topped it with orange zest to bring out “sweet citrus.” Then she added steamed half and half and allowed the foam rise to the top. She poured raw Turbinado sugar and bruleed it with a blowtorch.

10. Lita Lopez – Groundwork Coffee Co. – Los Angeles, CA

Lopez utilized a “blend of Ethiopian Sidamo, a lovely washed Brazilian and a very exciting El Salvador.” She added, “Every espresso should have some Ethiopia in it, because Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee.” With this coffee, “You should be getting some dried fruit tones, dried apricot, a little bit of boysenberry, and the lingering finish is going to have a creamy toffee.”

Lopez began by making cherry syrup with a cherry puree she made last night. It’s Karo syrup, “a corn syrup, but not the dreaded high-fructose corn syrup.” She used leftover milk from the pitcher for the signature drink. When Lopez thought of a signature drink, “The first drink that came to mind was cherry limeade, since I’m from Texas.” The cherry syrup creates the impression of lime, but there is no lime. In her espresso, Lopez used a dropper to add the syrup, which was supposed to form the shape of Texas, but didn’t.

11. Nicole Mournian – Caffe Luxxe – Santa Monica, CA

Mournian used Caffe Luxxe’s Testa Rossa blend, a combination of Brazilian and Indonesian beans. She pointed out “dried fruit notes” and an “almond finish.”

Mournian based her signature drink on “Love in the Time of Cholera.” She quoted a passage from the novel, then explained her drink incorporates bitter almond milk. In the book, the ingredient contributes to poison, but not in this case. With the espresso drink, which utilized the milk, she served each judge a dish of pink peppercorn-rosewater granita with watermelon and sweetened condensed milk. The granita is a post-beverage palate cleanser.

12. Michael Richardson – Kean Coffee – Newport Beach, CA

Richardson went with an Ethiopian single-origin coffee, “clean with good balance.” He appreciates the “crema and beautiful mouthfeel” The tasting notes: “molasses, chocolate, brown sugar and of course blueberry.”

For cappuccinos, using Altadena whole milk, you’ll find “sweet, creamy, and a little bit of nuttiness.”

Richardson worked to find “something that highlighted that beautiful mouthfeel.” He discovered Mascarpone, a sweet cheese. He ringed the glasses with a little bit of cream to “accentuate the berry notes.” After adding pure cane sugar and espresso, he instructed the judges to stir before sipping to accentuate the flavors.

Day Two of the Western Regional Barista Competition concluded with the announcement of six Finalists. Before emcees Stephen Morrissey, Kyle Glanville and Chris Baca made the announcement, the crowd got a glimpse of the three trophies, which will be awarded Sunday. Each wooden trophy hosts a portafilter, tamper and espresso cup. First place gets a black cup, second place a tan and third place white. Each competitor was scored using an 870-point scale that accounted for barista’s technical ability and sensory experience. I’ll post more about scoring before tomorrow’s finals. Without further hesitation, here are the Finalists:

Devin Pedde – Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea – Los Angeles, CA
Renee Teichen – Ritual Coffee Roasters – San Francisco, CA
Sara Peterson – The Abbey coffeeart & music lounge – Santa Cruz, CA
Nick Griffith – Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea – Los Angeles, CA
Jared Truby – Verve Coffee Roasters – Santa Cruz, CA
Ryan Willbur – Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea – Los Angeles, CA

Barista Competition Los Angeles
Left to right: Pedde, Teichen, Peterson, Griffith, Truby (hidden) and Willbur


Joshua Lurie

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

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[…] … Two cute octopussies struggle to burn their love in a sunny island of the Mediterraneum. …Food GPS Western Regional Barista Competition (Day 2)9. Hannah Kram Caffe Mediterraneum Berkeley, CA. COFFEE. Element blend from Barefoot, … Leave a […]

I’m not qualified to judge the competitors, and didn’t have a chance to taste the drinks or see them up close. Also, I’m not a trained barista, so wouldn’t be able to evaluate their technical ability. Still, since you’re asking for an opinion, based on presentation alone, it seemed like the judges pretty much got it right, though there were 2-3 other competitors who could have slipped into Sunday’s finals.

that’s the reporting, now…what about the op-ed? 🙂 what was your take, who do you think did the best (based on your third party, non-tasting observation?)


Thanks for the correction. I changed it.

If anybody notices any other mistakes, please let me know. With all the noise in that room, it was tough to make out some of the words.

Great coverage.

The spro blend used by Sara Peterson is not “The Servant.” It is “The Sermon”


total coverage « WRBC 2009

[…] Published January 25, 2009 competitors , general Food GPS comes through with some excellent coverage of Day 2 of the WRBC. Go check it […]

I was tempted to be the Al Michaels or Chick Hearn and start calling the shots (ha ha).

Even if you stuck around, you wouldn’t have been able to taste any signature beverages. It’s a little bit like “Iron Chef” in that way. Observation leads to frustration, but it’s still a great event.

That’s some detailed live journalism. Too bad I couldn’t stick around — and even worse that I couldn’t taste all those yummy drinks (but what I did have were all very well prepared, though.)

Maybe I’ll swing by for the beginning of tomorrow’s final competition.

I’m lovin’ the play-by-play yo! Already sounds like an intense competition!

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