Heather and me at the judges table.
Photo courtesy of Dave White
NWRBC 2009 - Tacoma My first time participating in (or even seeing) a barista competition in person was a whirlwind tour of the espresso world, full of introductions to industry folks who up until last weekend I had only heard of or read about. I was expecting to be a little star struck, but everyone was so warm and down-to-earth I’d forgotten ever hearing of them prior to the event. This, of course, made it much easier to learn about being a judge. Lani Peterson of DaVinci Gourmet led the class (which was over 10 hours long) with the help of Rob Tuttle (Everything Coffee and Tea) and Nick Cho (Murky Coffee). I had the pleasure of sharing sensory judge duties with Stephen Morrissey, 2008 World Barista Champion, who was learning to judge as well. He was pleasant, with a quiet intensity that wasn’t off-putting. I gave him some of our Nicaragua finca Limoncillo Pacamara Peaberry and his face lit up. He talked a bit about his trip to the Mierisch farm last year, absolutely stunned by both the beauty of the farm and the delicious coffee growing there. He loved the packaging and couldn’t wait to get the coffee into a French press. Batdorf & Bronson® had two competitors this year, Lauren Ayrey and Matt Chrisope, both from the Dancing Goats® Espresso Bar in Olympia.
Preparation and training began in late November and continued up until the week of competition, which helped them to perfect their routine and gave me a chance to get a hang of the rules and calibrate my taste buds for judging. The training paid off for all, Lauren receiving some of the highest technical scores of the weekend and both baristas giving great performances. Lauren placed 10th and Matt 11th, both with excellent scores.
Matt with barista pro and M.C. of the event, Chris Baca . Photo courtesy of Dave White
Matt making a serious cappuccino. Photo courtesy of Dave White
Lauren putting on the charm. Photo courtesy of Dave White
Lauren prepares to serve the judges. Photo courtesy of Dave White
There were some stellar performances by nearly all of the baristas that day, and we were proud to have a fellow Olympian, Michael Elvin (Espresso Parts Northwest & Olympia Coffee), make it into the finals. His performance and grasshopper-like signature drink were top-notch, earning him 4th place. The competition was fierce, and the final results were: 1st - Alex Pond (Fresh Pot, Portland) 2nd - Kevin Fuller (Albina Press, Portland) 3rd – Robbie Britt (Zoka, Seattle) There were quite a few sponsors and they deserve many thanks for helping everyone to raise the bar for the barista craft and making each year more and more competitive, which in turn increases awareness for specialty coffee across the board.
The nationals are in Portland this year, slated for March 5th-8th, at The Red Lion Oregon Convention Center. Since it’s an open competition, Matt Chrisope plans on competing then as well, and will be working very hard to improve upon his already awesome routine. Let’s congratulate our baristas for their hard work and dedication, and wish them the best for their next performance!