Welcome to our Day Two recap coverage from the 2014 Big Western Regional Barista Competition. This event is happening over the weekend of February 21st-23rd, and is a preliminary regional competition to determine entrants for the 2014 United States Barista Championship in Seattle. It is our pleasure and privilege to serve as official media partners throughout the 2014 United States Barista Championship season, in association with the Specialty Coffee Association of America.
Our coverage is made possible by direct support from Wilbur Curtis and Portola Coffee Lab. The entirety of our 2014 competition coverage–regionals, nationals, and the 2014 World Barista Championship in Rimini, Italy–is anchored by the direct support of Nuova Simonelli, whose Aurelia T3 serves as the official espresso machine of the USBC and WBC.
All photos by Zachary Carlsen for Sprudge.com.
Day Two – Saturday, February 22, 2014 – 19 Competitors
Ms. Brandvein competes using a blend of two single origin coffees from @LadroRoasting–Kenya and Guatemala. Elle Goulding's near-immortal “Anything Can Happen” anchoring @sambrandvein‘s service here–great soundtrack.
Sig drink: orange bitters, vanilla & muscovado simple syrup, cooled espresso, coffee ice cubes. Ms. Brandvein made her orange bitters live on stage in front of the judges–a quick process using orange peel. She narrowly escapes DQ, calls time at 15:58.
“The cappuccino represents an opportunity to be present in the moment and enjoy a beautiful coffee.”
Mr. Nunziata competes with the Guatemala Flor De Concepcion, a Huehuetenango coffee by @coavacoffee–bourbon, caturra, and catuai varieties. Flor de Concepcion is fully washed, grown between 1600-1800m and produced by a small co-op.
Mr. Nunziata's sig drink: dark chocolate softened in a water bath, blood orange juice, crushed graham-cracker-rimmed glasses. She uses maple syrup as a sweetener–from a sugar shack down the street from his childhood home in Vermont. Into the bonus, but just barely–Mark Nunziata calls time at 15:07.
23. Corey Autobee, Independent, Seattle @coreyautobee
“Are we as coffee professionals becoming a group of really really nice rockstars? … No one ever returned to a coffee because their barista seemed more intelligent than them.”– @coreyautobee‘s opening script is frankly amazing. “Our guests are simply validated by being humans and being our friends.”
Mr. Autobee intentionally presents judges w/espressos sans farm or variety information–just flavor notes. “I believe we should also put hospitality and serving someone well above any education components.” Mr. Autobee competes using Traboca Importer's washed process Yirgacheffe Biloya, roasted by @kumacoffee in Seattle.
At no point did @coreyautobee instruct judges to clear beverage courses–sig drink includes a re-taste of his espressos & capps. Drinks down at 14:07–time to refill water glasses, clean station…this was an enormously impressive routine. Time at 14:47.
Mr. Casassa competes w/@ritualcoffee‘s seasonal “Sweet Tooth” espresso–right now comprised of Kenya Gicherori coffee. “Don't mind if I say this has crema for days.”–Christopher Casassa on his Kenya Gicherori espresso.
For sig drink Mr. Casassa is filtering shots throughout his service to remove crema–then playing with mallic & phosphoric acids. His sig drink mixture is carbonated–this is a complex and multi-faceted sig drink service, lots of layers. Mr. Casassa calls time at 15:10
The second competitor of the weekend hailing out of @CremaPDX, it's Marla Roach, from Portland, Oregon. @CremaPDX is a cafe and bakery, located on SE Ankeny in a picturesque part of SE Portland. Learn more here.
Ms. Roach competes using @coavacoffee‘s El Salvador San Sofia–check it out here. Velvety texture and notes of candied hazelnut, raw sugar, and caramel” in Marla Roach's cappuccinos. Marla decides to re-pull a round of shots, still calls time at 15:00 on the dot.
Kevin “Tex” Bohlin competes with a coffee from El Cidral, Honduras–“Las Nieves”–Pacas & Catimor varieties. Mr. Bohlin is closely associated with specialty coffee in Honduras–he's traveled there extensively. We've written several features on the unique service, gear, & events happening at @stfrankcoffee.
Tex is a pro–conservation of movement, but also a conservative script. Not heaps of dialogue. Hitting his spots. He says there's an almost Alpine-like terroir and temperature at Las Nieves and his sig drink is meant to mimic that with Douglas-fir-tip ice cream, personally foraged by @kgbohlin–then rhubarb jam & sweet broth, espresso. he calls time at 15:22.
Mr. Critchfield's capps–“sweet caramel, molasses and nutmeg shining through as notes of apple pie.” For his signature drink, he uses a traditional Bolivian cider–“Mocochinchi”–plus limes & espresso.
“Judges, it was an honor” – Corey Critchfield of @CaseStudyCoffee calls time at 14:48.
Mr. Severson placed 4th overall at last year's very competitive Southwest Regionals. His routine begins w/an explanation of the Japanese phrase “wabi-sabi”–its history and evolved meaning. Worth noting: there's a gigantic wooden plank that @trmnsvrsn has overlaid atop his sensory judges' station.
Mr. Severson competes using a natural gesha coffee from the Volcan region of Panama–dried in rotating ovens. The coffee is by Hartmann Estate, Panama–learn more about this incredibly biodiverse place here.
“Beauty by its very nature is impermanent”–Truman Severson rounding his routine back to wabi-sabi for his sig drink. Molecular gastronomy show-stopping from @trmnsvrsn–sig drink espressos are served with a “mist”. Mr. Severson's mist was made w/an ultrasonic baby humidifier! A mist with essence of pineapple, strawberry, lemon. Mr. Severson calls time at 14:09 to a roaring crowd.
“This coffee was grown very traditionally, so today I'm extracting it very traditionally.” Espresso notes: “peach candy, creamy mouthfeel, key lime, hops, sweet nectarine, assam, dark chocolate.” Ooh Sunshine Dairy! @Bethany_ynahteB serving milk from Sunshine her at #bigwestern–a PDX mainstay with super-serious QC practices.
“Simple presentation and ideology is best, because it allows the coffee to shine, no holds barred.”
“A warm peanut butter all the way through…green pepper, and maple sweetness” in Elle Taylor's capps. Sig drink: papaya, butter, cardamom & cayenne puree, with a shot pulled over top–cayenne provides “a little pop.”
Elle Taylor's soundtrack includes @noahandthewhale‘s “Five Years Time”–this speaks to my misspent indie-pop youth. Ms. Taylor ends her routine by sharing a cheers with the judges. Glasses clink. Time called at 15:40.
Up next the #bigwestern competitor who traveled the greatest distance to be here–@sarahposma of Alaska Coffee Roasting Company. No really – @sarahposma traveled 3,283 miles to compete at #BIGWESTERN— bigger than the distance from LA to NYC.
Ms. Posma competes with a coffee from western Rwanda, in the Lake Kivu region.
Ms. Posma's sig drink: birch syrup, club soda, and espresso–“an espresso cordial.” Birch syrup is like a combination of “agave and molasses…it has a lot of balsam, due to the high mineral content.” She calls time at 15:14.
“Speciality coffee is more like a web than a chain–there's so many ways to get involved in this industry.”
All Phil Spector so far in Mr. Patterson's soundtrack…this old stuff sounds so great on big speakers. Orange blossom honey, coconut water and sparkling mineral water in @rileypatterson1‘s signature drink–“accessible, exciting.”
“I can feel morally & intellectually at home in this industry. It's got some moral backbone.” Mr. Patterson calls time at 14:43–a professional and expressive routine at #BIGWESTERN–really a treat.
Ms. Ghambari's service includes washed, pulp natural, and natural coffees from producer Emilo Lopez Diaz in El Salvador. The coffee comes from Finca El Manzano, and was roasted by Phil Beattie of @Dillanos. “These coffees are about as fresh crop as you can get…they were on a tree a month ago.”
Adjusting her espresso blends throughout @lay_luh‘s service–different ratios for espresso, capps, and sig drink. Pro tip: any materials you provide to your sensory judges, make one more for the head judge. Also serve him/her water.
First sig drink component for @lay_luh–fresh coffee cherry jam from El Manzano, steeped coffee cherries, combined as a syrup. Second part–a smoke component, inspired by @dillanos roaster Phil Beattie's input. By smoke, we mean like a smoke machine on stage.Tthere's a smokey test tube with espresso & coffee cherry jam. The wood inside @lay_luh‘s smoke device on stage was cherry wood. it smells amazing and also looked…well, bong-like.
Laila Ghambari calls time at 14:53.
Leslie's table setting has beautiful little details–yellow rimmed glasses matching the fresh flowers. Notes for her espresso “stone fruit, specifically plum, & burnt sugars.” Her cappuccinos: vanilla, caramel, and toasted marshmallow.
Loving the beachy rock of Leslie's soundtrack–goes great with the beautiful LA day. This routine from Leslie is so relaxed and inviting, from script to soundtrack to table setting. Ms. Ruckman calls time at 15:17.
Ms. Groazanick puts her cappuccino shots in front of judges, asks to swirl for aromatics, then pours tableside. Interesting taste/tactile note for her espressos: “the clean, round mouthfeel of dry apple cider.” Unfortunately she calls time at 16:17, disqualifying her.
“My cafe is a college coffee shop…today's presentation will follow a college format”–Econ, History, course packs…
Mr. Ohye competes using coffee from the north shore of Oahu, from the Wailua Estate–learn more. Labor costs for producers in Hawaii work on a different spectrum. US minimum wage requirements, etc, as explained by Mr. Ohye. He also brought his own milk from Hawaii Island Dairy–one of Hawaii's few commercial dairies.
Mr. Ohye is re-pulling one of his cappuccino shots as he steps into talking about his signature drink. Mr. Ohye calls time at 15:49.
One part espresso, one part dry ice, and one part hot water for the sig drink in Mr. Bledsoe's #bigwestern routine. He starts the dry ice smoking off to stage left, while moving along to pull shots for his espresso course.
Mr. Bledsoe's sig drink: chilled espresso, tonic water, lemon–injected into vessels w/some kind of syringe. Spherification, medical syringes, dry ice. Cracking ice spheres with a wooden hammer. Chad Bledsoe, folks. He hustles through mic problems and a timer malfunction to call time at 15:57.
“Sweetness has always stood out to me, and made me fall in love with coffee.”
Jasmine and oolong tea, clementine juice, and espresso in Mr. Villa's signature drink. He calls time at 14:59.
Ms. Abramowicz is the 2013 Southwest region barista champion, defending her title this weekend. She competes with @intelligentsia‘s Boliva Takesi–grown at 2450 MASL, possibly the highest coffee farm on earth. Takesi plants only get “3-4 hours of sunlight a day” – resulting coffee is denser, w/more compacted flavor. Takesi is exclusively roasted in North America by @intelligentsia–learn more about this coffee here.
Ms Abramowicz heats an infusion of “apple, toasted almonds, maple syrup, and black tea” for her sig drink. To this she adds espresso, and green grape/allspice/black tea foam. The sig drink is served up in beautiful, delicate long-stemmed cordial glasses.
Sig drinks down at 12:30–Ms. Abramowicz serving espressos last. Eden-Marie Abramowicz calls time at 14:41 (every bit as good as last year…)
You can read all about the 2014 Big Western weekend here on Sprudge.