Lemuel Butler of Counter Culture Coffee in Durham, North Carolina has won the 2015 Southeast Regional Barista Competition. He’ll move on to compete (with a first-round bye) at the 2015 United States Barista Championship next February in Long Beach, California. He also wins a sport on Cafe Imports’ 2015 barista origin trip to Colombia.

This is Mr. Butler’s incredible fifth regional barista competition win, his most recent coming in the 2013 season. Record keeping in the pre-Sprudge era of barista competition coverage is spotty at the regional level, but after consulting with a few informal advisors, we feel comfortable declaring that this win makes Lemuel Butler the winningest barista in American regional barista competition history. All five of his wins have come in the Southeast region for our partners at Counter Culture Coffee, adding to the company’s trophy case that includes a 2012 United States Barista Championship win by Katie Carguilo.


Lem Butler competed this year with a coffee from Thiriku, Kenya, which as an espresso had  “jammy red & black currant” notes, with a “cranberry acidity, a silky body and crisp finish.” As a cappuccino, this coffee shined, yielding some of the very best cappuccino notes of the weekend at Big Eastern: “Milk chocolate, sweet malt, a pillowy, creamy body, and in the finish…the shadowy existence of baked lemon tart.” Shadowy existence indeed!

advert new rules of coffee now available


In keeping with the tradition of Mr. Butler giving his signature drink cool names–previous drinks include “The ATLien” and “The Illusionist”–this year’s sig drink was called “The Upgrade”. Butler combined chilled shots of Kenya Thiriku with cashew milk, coconut powder, peaches, salt, and tonic water, before finishing the drink with a gardenia spritz. A complex list of ingredients, served simply on a minimalist wooden tray with a fresh pour of sparkling water, a spoon and napkin.



It’s true that with his remarkable fifth regional win, Lem Butler has already earned himself a place in competition history. But nobody wants to be like Charles Barkley or John Stockton or Dan Marino or Randall Cunningham–sports legends, Hall of Famers, who never won a title ring. Lem Butler doesn’t come back each year to pile up the regional wins; he comes back because he wants to win the whole damn thing at nationals, and join the elite club of US Barista Champions.

The USBC happens in February in Long Beach, California. Will this be his year?


All photos by Zachary Carlsen for Want more #BigEastern coverage? Dig in at

Our Big Eastern coverage sponsored by Wilbur Curtis Company and Counter Culture Coffee, with additional support from our partners at BonaVitaAll of our 2015 USBC and WBC barista competition coverage is underwritten in partnership with Square.

We’re proud to serve as official media partners of the Specialty Coffee Association of America.

New Rules of Coffee banner advertising an illustrated guide to the essential rules for enjoying coffee