USBC Finalists: An Interview With Beckett

 
By 27 April 2012
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Our 2012 USBC coverage was made possible by direct support from Stumptown Coffee Roasters.


We sat down digitally with one of this year’s USBC Finalists, Travis Beckett, of Peregrine Espresso in Washington, DC, to discuss his 2012 USBC run. In all honesty, we didn’t know a lot about Mr. Beckett coming into the national competition in Portland, but we’re sure familiar with Peregrine, a fine Counter Culture Coffee cafe located in a space formerly occupied by murky coffee, Nick Cho’s mid-2000s third wave bellweather shop (where 1/2 of Sprudge.com once toiled, along with 2012 USBC champ Katie Carguilo and many other industry notables). This was Mr. Beckett’s first time at nationals, and only his second competition season overall. But his was not a “dark horse” run; playing to a packed house on Finals Sunday, Travis exuded the same easy grace and gentle hospitality you’d find at a garden party, or a slow afternoon at your favorite cafe. For us, Mr. Beckett’s routine at the United States Barista Championship was a revelation of his talent, and a highlight amongst a very competitive and entertaining field. Let’s chat with him, shall we?

 

Hey Travis, thanks for your time. First – did you have an overarching theme for your presentation?

The environment I wanted to create was that of a backyard cocktail party – relaxing, classy, pleasant. This helped me choose the table settings, the music, and dictated my demeanor. The theme for my presentation was the ‘aha moment’ with coffee… I feel like every coffee person has a story about that first cup that changed their perspective and made them fall on love with coffee. The coffee I used was one that had previously given me one of these moments of illumination.

Did you choose to name your signature drink? Can you give us the recipe?

I tend to name things literally, so we’ll call it ‘sparkling iced coffee with a float of espresso and berry/malt reduction.’ The ingredients in this were meant to go with the super-fruity Idido sundried, so keep that in mind if you use a different coffee…

-Make 16 oz japanese-style iced coffee and place it in an isi whip cream whipper. Charge the coffee with a N20 (cream) charger and gently agitate to let the gas dissolve.

-Macerate an even amount of blueberries and strawberries, then strain through cheesecloth. Weigh the juice and add an even amount of barley malt.

-bring these to a boil together, then chill and strain again.

-Pull your shots of espresso and combine ~10g of the reduction for each shot.

-At the last moment, de-gas the iced coffee and portion it out into rocks glasses. Float the espresso/reduction mixture on top of the idido using (what else) a cupping spoon.

Yum. What coffees did you use for your competition?

The espresso was a blend of 65% Idido Sundried from the Yirgacheffe region of Ethiopia, and 35% La Frontera from Jaén, Peru. I also used the Idido for my signature beverage. All my coffee came from Counter Culture Coffee.

Can you tell us a bit about your competition history? 

This was my first time at USBC. I competed in the SE region in 2011 and 2012, with problematic performances both times.

Share with us a favorite moment at USBC 2012 – doesn’t have to be competition based, but certainly can be. What stands out in your memory?

In truth, it was amazing getting through a full performance without spilling an espresso or going over 16 minutes like I’ve always done before.

What do you do to get pumped before competition?

I spent the morning polishing and listening to “speedwood” (think acoustic speed metal), and then once I had my apron on and my tablecloth in my hand it was time for some aerobics!

Whom would you like to thank? Use this last question for essential shout-outs, and thanks so much for sharing this time and info with us.

Ryan Jensen, owner at Peregrine Espresso, has created an amazing work environment that encourages baristas to become coffee professionals. Can’t thank him enough. Jeremy Sterner was the competition coach this rear, and completely changed the way i approach competition. The competition team, Lindsey Kiser and Randy Kindle were amazing support, as were Meredith Taylor, Monique Sommers, and Judith Mandel. And a special thanks to Brian Duggan and Alex Brown, the DC Counter Culture guys, for letting us continually trash their training space!

 
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