Chattin’ With The Champs: Pete Licata, Barista Champion of the USA

Sprudge.com recently attended the Soyuz Coffee Roasters pop-up cafe in Red Square, staffed by 7 National Champion baristas from around the world. We’re profiling each of the champions, and today we’re featuring Pete Licata, Barista Champion of the USA.

In a lot of ways, it’s a perfect story: a mainland barista with serious chops moves to Hawaii, where he falls in with a roaster and a family of producers pushing specialty coffee on the islands to new heights. The result? A United States Barista Championship win for Pete Licata, Honolulu Coffee Roasters and Rusty’s Hawaiian. A truly American success story, marking not just the first USBC win for a Hawaiian roaster, but the first USBC win for a barista using coffees grown within the USA.

At the center of that story is Pete. Equal amounts shy and disarmingly bright, Pete Licata has a quiet intensity that shines through almost every topic of conversation – coffee, to be sure, but also cocktails, whiskey, pig fat, business realities, the bizarre and charming culture of the Hawaiian islands, and his place in the American coffee scene following his 2011 USBC win.

Pete Licata with unknown Polish equestrian beauty.

Like most national champions, Pete’s schedule this year has been packed with travel: he’s headed to Taiwan in early October in consultation with Rusty’s Hawaiian and the Honolulu Coffee Company, who are opening a store in Taiwan in the not-too-distant future. But on the horizon for Pete is a chance to share the farm-side knowledge and unique vantage point he’s developed during his years in Hawaii.

Quoth Pete: “Farmers have a great understanding and knowledge, but the barista perspective is enormously important. I feel like I have a balanced knowledge across the board, and I want to give it. What’s the point of knowing if you don’t share it?” The form that knowledge sharing will take is still under wraps for Pete, but expect to hear more about it in the coming months. Info-thirsty coffee types at all levels of the chain could learn a lot from consulting with Pete Licata. We sure did.

Foreground: Stefanos Domatiotis mugs for the camera. Background: Pete Licata with antlers.

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