Sometimes the cosmos line up, and in a flurry of kismet, the perfect name gets pulled at random from out of the proverbial hat. Laura Clark is a first-year barista competitor, a working barista at Homer’s Coffee House in Overland Park, Kansas, and a total specialty coffee nut – and she’s headed to Melbourne and the World Barista Championship for free because she filled out Natvia‘s barista competition bingo card. Free flights, nights, parties, all of it, heading straight into the epicenter of global specialty coffee culture, and all for winning at Bingo.
So obviously we asked, and Laura Clark was nice enough to sit down with us for a game of 5 questions.
1. OK, so how cool is it that you get to go to Melbourne for free! What are you most excited to see there? Can you believe that any of it happened yet?
I am definitely excited about going to Melbourne – even more so for free! I am excited to watch the World Barista Championship and cheer on Pete Licata from Parisi, of course. KANSAS CITY REPRESENT! I think I am more excited just to see a side of the coffee industry I have not seen yet. I know that this will be like a huge family reunion, but this will be my first “Coffee Family Reunion.” Winning the trip is definitely still sinking in. This last week felt like such a long time, just because of the anticipation of waiting for the details of the trip and from the responses of all my family and friends.
2. Talk to us about how you filled out the Natvia Bingo – any memorable moments that seem SUPER memorable now that you won? How long did it take you to fill the whole thing out?
I can honestly say that I was not even planning on playing the Natvia Bingo until my friend, Amanda, convinced me to do it. She said that we had a possibility of getting free coffee, and as a coffee fanatic, free coffee is ALWAYS good. From completing the Bingo, I got this really cute Wilbur Curtis Co. coffee pot keychain, and I was happy with that. How long did it take me to fill out the Bingo? I honestly do not remember, but it was not hard to fill out. Bow ties were everywhere. Thanks to Tyler Rovenstine from Oddly Correct, there were signs galore. [See here]
3. You are the head barista at Homer’s Coffee House in Overland Park, a suburb of Kansas City just across the Kansas border. Tell us all about Homer’s! What coffee are y’all doing there? How long have you been there?
That’s right. Homer’s Coffee House is in Downtown Overland Park, and we have been here for almost 13 years. I have been at the shop since November 2011, so I just passed 1 1/2 years. Homer’s is a unique shop in town, we have a ton of seating and students and big groups take advantage of that. We also have live music every Friday and Saturday nights. There is a stage in the shop and we have a great sound equipment so we are able to adapt to a full band with electric guitars and such; we even have a 18 piece jazz big band that performs about every other month. We are currently using E.F. Hobbs Coffee based out of Shawnee, Kansas. As of right now, we only offer his coffee in drip and as espresso based drinks. Here in the near future, I am very excited to add pour overs to our menu. I know Stubbie, our roaster, will enjoy that, and I am hoping our customers will too.
4. You competed in the South Central regionals this year, your first ever entry into the wild world of barista competitions. Give us the long view on what that was like, how you felt that weekend, how you’re thinking about the whole thing now – what did you learn? Will you compete again?
Wow. A wild world it is. It was such a great experience. I started training for Big Central about 2 or 3 months before the competition. Picking my coffee was easy, because all I wanted was Stubbie to give me the coffee he was the most proud of and it was the Guatemala La Voz. I loved taking that coffee and drinking it as espresso and pour overs. I also loved learning about the coffee inside and out, that is something I am not able to do very often. It was a new side to coffee I have never experienced. The thought that coffee could change flavors from one day to the next is just insane. As you know, consistency is big in competition, but also in the day to day setting of the shop, I was able to improve my dosing, tamping, and milk steaming because I was training for competition. I just loved that I was able to include my shop in this process, even our customers. They were giving me insights on my presentations, my signature drink, and we were learning about coffee together. It was so beautiful to see our shop coming together learning about coffee. My favorite memory about training for competition was that I had a customer chase me out the shop to tell me that the foam on their drink was the best I had made for them.
I will definitely be competing again. Watching all of the other regional competitions, and showing them at Homer’s made me miss the experience very much. After Big Central was over I had no idea what to do with all of my new spare time. Yes, I was very nervous that weekend, but I loved the constant training/learning, meeting new people, playing on those beautiful machines, and just having a ton of fun. I learned so much. Next year, I will definitely keep a better look at the time, no DQ for me next year. Although, I will definitely keep my music along the same line as this last time. I had such a great reaction from it. Hearing people’s reactions had me smiling during my presentation.
5. You are writing some cool stuff about Kansas City over at your KCMorsel blog – are you stoked to take that on the road with you to Melbourne? What can your new readers expect?
Thanks. I am so stoked to take KCMorsels with me. I remembered reading the article about Melbourne by Noah Namowicz in the Barista Magazine April/May 2012 issue. I re-read that article this last week, and wow, over 500 shops in Melbourne! My old and new readers can definitely expect to find posts about shops in Melbourne, but of course some great places to get beers, cocktails, and food. I can not wait to try some Australian beer! I will definitely be posting about the trip in general. If anyone has any suggestions on where to go, I will definitely take those suggestions, I am sure I will be overwhelmed by the amount of places out there.
Follow Laura Clark’s exploits from Melbourne via her own KCMorsels blog, and at Natvia.com.
There is also another free trip to Melbourne from Natvia up for grabs – their aptly named ‘Send Me To Melbourne’ contest is underway, and it’s still anyone’s game. Sign up here, learn more on Tumblr here. (Matt Perger interviews, etc.)
Top photo by Charlie Burt for Sprudge.com