Live From Kansas City: South Central Regional Finalists

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Reagan Petrehn, Parisi Artisan Coffee – South Central Region 

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The youngest BCRBC finalist, first-time competitor Reagan Petrehn performs with a sense of purpose and focus. Mr. Petrehn competed using the same Ecuadorian coffee that helped Pete Licata win, and he trained closely with Mr. Licata throughout this competition prep process. That’s surely to his benefit, but he’s no Manchurian candidate; we were impressed again and again by the choices he made throughout his 15 minutes on stage, and with his demeanor and professional focus.

Mr. Petrehn’s signature drink was a highlight of the weekend, incorporating goat’s milk (popular in the region of Ecuador from whence his coffee hails) alongside dark chocolate, espresso, and sugar spheres filled with a reduction of honey, blood orange & rosemary. This was not molecular gaspronomy for the sake of it, but rather a carefully considered and dialed in choice. A statement, not a show-off, incorporating the science of spherification as a subtle tool for delicious coffee.

Technically proficient, with a focus and drive that masked his first-timer status, Regan Petrehn’s run to Finals Sunday was a surprise and highlight of the BCRBC. Should he choose to continue in competition, he’ll be a name to watch in the South Central region for years to come.

David Fasman, Kaldi’s Coffee, St. Louis – South Central Region

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The 2013 South Central Regional Finals were an historic showing of competition success by the baristas of Kaldi’s Coffee. Their ranks amounted to half the field; Nora Brady and Jacque DesMarais returned for their second consecutive bid on Finals Sunday, while David Fasman pretty seriously impressed the crowd in his first year of competition.

Mr. Fasman competed using Kaldi’s Coffee Panama Lerida, a 2013 Good Food Awards finalist from the Boquete region of Panama. His signature drink sounds the like the sort of thing we’d love to order at our neighborhood cafe, a fruit cocktail of cantaloupe, pommagranate, and raspberry juices, brought together with Lerida espresso, a cold brew of said Lerida, and a CO2 charge (CO2 was very big at BCRBC).

Ferocious competition from first timers was de rigeur at the Big Centrals, and all signs point towards Kaldi’s making a serious bid at this year’s USBC event in Boston. We’re told all three of their BCRBC finalists will be back to compete again. Watch out.

Nora Brady, Kaldi’s Coffee, St. Louis – South Central Region

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This routine was definitely a staff favorite. Nora Brady competed using an absolutely fascinating coffee, from Kaldi’s Sumatra Wahana project. This coffee comes from the Sidkaling region of northern Sumatra, and is grown by producers with around 500 hectares of land to work with. There, the producers have access to their own coffee variety nursery, where they conduct experimentation on various processing methods and post-Colonial-endemic Sumatran coffee varieties. Ms. Brady’s coffee was naturally processed, and comprised of the rare Rusana cultivar; she called it “an outlier”, a coffee that challenges preconceived notions. We highly recommend you learn more via Kaldi’s Coffee web listing for this coffee.

And as for Ms. Brady herself, well, it’s no accident this his her second-straight appearance at Finals Sunday. There’s this thing that happens when Nora Brady competes that is all at once measured, yet stark, knowledgeable, yet beguilingly distant; without even being remotely gendered, it’s pretty, like a piece of white-and-charcoal art, or beautiful snippet or storytelling radio. Her routines are subtle and smart, and for the informed competition watcher, a sincere pleasure for the sense, all voice control and expertise and ineffable vibe. We cannot wait to watch her compete again at USBC in Boston, alongside the other exceptional competitors from Kaldi’s Coffee.

Jacque DesMarais, Kaldi’s Coffee, St. Louis – South Central Region

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At some point in the last two years – maybe it was her South Central finals run in 2012, or her bid into semi-finals at the USBC in Portland – Jacque DesMarais has established herself as one of the elite barista competitors in North America. She will win one of these big shows one day, mark our words, and she very nearly did it last weekend at the BCRBC. Ms. DesMarais’ 15 minute routine was startling in its complexity, yet executed with a deftness and sure touch that still makes us shake our heads as we look back over the notes.

In a routine anchored to the simple theme of balance, Ms. DesMarais’ presented the judges with two distinct coffees (both from Colombia, both roasted by Kaldi’s Coffee), two distinct sets of signature beverages (a maple syrup & grenadine soda for Kaldi’s La Union Nariño, and a dry cherry & brown sugar reduction for Kaldi’s Colombia Monseratte), and a series of layered shots in her portafilter during the cappuccino and espresso courses. And yet for all its disparate components, Jacque’s routine kept coming back to that anchor place of balance. The balance within the sig drinks, and their balance to each other; the balance within the individual coffees, and again, their balance to each other; or the balance between steamed milk and her twinned coffees, ground together in the carefully formed stratigraphy of her portafilter.

Watching it for the first time on Saturday, it was a task just to keep up the notes and tweets, on account of what was happening; watching it the second time on Finals Sunday, her routine achieved this kind of learned prepared weightlessness, where the untold countless hours of rehearsal and thought and heart that Ms. DesMarais had put into that moment actually came alive on stage, right before our very eyes, and not one single person in the room could look away.

Free will is free will, and career choices are exactly that: choices, made of the aforementioned free will. But we’ll say it again: Jacque DesMarais will win one of these big shows someday, and she very nearly did it last weekend. So long as she continues feeling called to compete, and continues to dedicate herself to putting together routines like this one, the rest is an inevitability.

Tyler Rovenstine, Oddly Correct Coffee, Kansas City – South Central Region

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There are home-field advantages, and then there’s just good old-fashioned home town love, like the kind that was on display at BCRBC for KC native Tyler Rovenstine, of Oddly Correct Coffee Roasters. It sort of seemed like his entire high school showed up at one point, with face cut-outs, posters, and a sense of reverie usually reserved for national champions at the WBC. It made for a raucous and grandiose atmosphere each time Tyler took the stage.

Mr. Rovenstine competed at BCRBC using a coffee from the Antigua region of Guatemala – a washed bourbon, fermented for an extensive 36 hours, then dried for 12 days on raised beds. He was one of several competitors to mention specifically that his coffee had been sourced by Piero Cristiani of Cafe Imports; openly discussing importer-roaster relations was another trend at Big Centrals, and one we’d be happy to see more of.

We crowed throughout the weekend about the very high quality of photography we’re able to offer from this event, courtesy of Sprudge contributor Charlie Burt – we’re especially fond of the above diptych, which captures the flamed grapefruit peel used in Tyler’s sig drink, along with a glimpse of the adoring crowd, and a triumphant pose of Tyler with his CO2 charger.

Pete Licata, Parisi Artisan Coffee, Kansas City – South Cenral Region

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Pete Licata is your 2013 South Central Regional Barista Champion! Check out our feature on his routine here. (Also, don’t you just love that tie?)

Our work covering this event live from Kansas City was made possible by PT’s Coffee, Kaldi’s Coffee, and Nuova Simonelli, with access and logistical consideration graciously provided by the Specialty Coffee Association of America. When you support these companies, you make our work possible.

Our gorgeous, world-beating, industry-leading photography from BCRBC comes courtesy of Charlie Burt, on Twitter as @Tiger_Friend. We think it’s some of the finest competition photography ever published. Look for more work from Mr. Burt on Sprudge.com in the near future.