It was a long road to this year's NERBC, one dotted by superstorms, reschedulings, venue changes, elevator mishaps, and most of all, the perseverance of the human spirit. Through all the trials and tribulations, the event itself and the people behind it soldiered on, and wound up creating one heck of a successful competition weekend.
What we've got today for you is the very best in photos, .gifs, and recap coverage from Finals Friday at the NERBC. Six competitors, each bound for glory, but only one destined for history. It was our distinct pleasure and privilege to serve as the SCAA's Official Digital Media Sponsors for this event, and throughout the 2013 competition season. We don't take this sponsorship lightly, which is why we've traveled to each of the 2013 USBC regional competitions to provide you with the very best in competition coverage. Our work at the 2013 NERBC was made possible by direct support from Dallis Bros. Coffee; the entirety of our 2013 regional, national, and world competition coverage is made possible by support from Nuova Simonelli.
And now, a few moments with your 2013 NERBC finalists.
Anne Cooper, Dallis Bros. Coffee, New York City
“If I could have grown my own coffee for you today, I would have. Next time.”
We got tipped off to this one a few days in advance, as a routine to watch closely on Day One, and geez, was our tipster correct. Anne Cooper twice delivered a honed, lively 15 minute routine on the NERBC, a set that felt equal parts technical and personal. Anne is a longtime competition veteran, having performed in her native Australia a total of 7 times, counting regionals and nationals. The coffee she competed with was itself Australian, the first time we've seen Aussie-grown coffee on a US competition stage (doesn't mean it's never happened, we've just never seen it).
The coffee came from Australia's Mountain Top Estate, and was designated as “Bin 478”, which we're guessing is a bit of a winemaking pun, and it was roasted by Anne personally at the Dallis Bros. roasting works in Queens. Anne Cooper's signature drink included her signature drink includes hops, grape juice, clementines mashed together, espresso and ice, soaked for a full 8 minutes to create what she called an “8 minute IPA”, which was her riff on the Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA.
Dallis Bros. did interviews with each of their barista competitors for blog posting, which is something that all companies fielding competitors should seriously consider doing. Read the Dallis Bros. feature on Anne Cooper here.
Tamara Vigil, Irving Farm Coffee, New York City
“As an educator, one of the hardest parts of my job is expressing the hard work that goes into producing coffee.”
A Nebraska native, Tamara Vigil is now doing big things in the big city as the Director of Education for Irving Farm, and she's clearly a fan favorite on the competition stage – both of her routines, from early on Day One and late on Finals Friday, were delivered to a packed house of comp watchers. Ms. Vigil competed using a coffee from the Huila region of Colombia, but she started the judges off with a taste of “Finca Irving” coffee cherries grown in the company's Manhattan training center.
Tamara Vigil competes with the compact ferocity of a rock and roll frontwoman; if Corin Tucker were a competition barista, her routines might have looked a bit like this one. Her signature drink included blackberry syrup, fresh thyme, a turbonado sugar syrup, and a bit of meyer lemon for a “touch of color”, paired with her Colombian espresso. It yielded one of the more delicious sounding flavor note sets of the NERBC weekend: “Leather and smoke, peanut butter & jelly.”
Jordan Barber, Intelligentsia, New York City (3rd Place finish overall)
Jordan Barber is a highly dextrous, physically gifted performer, and if there is a constant thread throughout his routines, it's that when he's on stage the rest of the field stops what they're doing to watch. That's respect, and it's a respect Mr. Barber has earned through several years of high-end performance on the competition circuit.
The conceit for his 2013 NERBC routine was the ways in which genetics, environment, and processing must be in balance to achieve an overall balance in coffee. You could spend 15 years studying this confluence of subjects, but Mr. Barber had just 15 minutes to educate and show knowledge to his judges. He competed using Intelligentsia's Brazil Agua Preta, an 100% yellow bourbon coffee that Mr. Barber described has having “jammy” acidity and a capacity for high cupping scores. This coffee presented “tootsie roll, black tea tannins, apricot, and lemon curd” tasting notes as espresso, and was combined with English breakfast tea, simple syrup, gelatin, ice cubes, and meyer lemon zest for Jordan Barber's signature drink.
Congratulations to Jordan Barber & Intelligentsia Coffee for placing 3rd overall at the 2013 NERBC.
Brian Gelletly, Ultimo Coffee, Philadelphia (2nd Place finish overall)
“Espresso is a paradox between intensity and delicateness.”
A tale of two routines to our eyes, as Brian Gelletly overcame the verbal hiccups of his Day Two run to deliver a very impressive performance on Finals Friday, good enough to earn him a 2nd place finish. His routine featured Counter Culture Coffee's Burundi Mpemba, which in Mr. Gelletly's hands yielded “a marzipan and citrusy aromy, a bright orange citrus first sip,” while the second sip was “toasty with a sweet finish.” His signature drink included the juicing of fresh apples live on stage (.gif here) – “Pink Ladies”, to be exact, combined alongside orange navel zest, cold steeped white tea, and sparkling water, which sounds pretty hollerable actually, once you write it all out.
On Twitter we called his routine “personal and intimate” with the judges, and possessing of this sort of gentle, frail charm, backed up with an obvious and palpable skill set. Looking back that sounds about right. Brian has been enormously impressive the last two years at NERBC, and we expect big things from him coming this April in Boston. With his second place NERBC finish, Brian Gelletly has now softly, almost quietly established himself as high performing big stage points scorer; and when he's on his game verbally, Mr. Gelletly is one of the very best barista competitors in the United States today.
Congratulations to Brian Gelletly and Utlimo Coffee for placing 3rd overall at the 2013 NERBC.
Mike Morgenstern, Joe New York, New York City
Barista competitors have entirely far too few nicknames; it should really be more like professional basketball in the 1990's, when everyone was “the Glove” or “the Mailman” or “the Glide” or “the Admiral”. Lucky for us, then, to have Mike Morgenstern in the mix, the one they call “Dr. Man Candy” – that's his Twitter handle, at least. The good Doctor competed at USBC using Joe NYC's Colombia Finca La Vega, which he described as tasting like “cherry with a molasses undertone & crisp, clear body.” That sounds great and all, but his cappuccino descriptions are drool-inducing: “A Neapolitan ice cream…subtle notes of milk chocolate, a hint of strawberry milkshake.”
Mr. Morgenstern's routine may have been the high point of NERBC finals, in terms of energy and crowd vibe. Perhaps because of the big bushel of Joey's who came out to Queens in support of their Man Candy; perhaps because of the bumping Fleetwood Mac megamix that accompanied his routine; and probably just because of Mike himself, who modeled this routine off a multi-course meal at Momo Sushi Shack in Bushwick and clearly was riding a high energy wave throughout. Seriously a delight to watch.
On a side note, Your Sprudge Editors were secretly pulling for Mike to win NERBC for headline possibilities alone: “Morgenstern Warning” and “Man Candyland” for starters.
Samuel Lewontin, Everyman Espresso, New York City (2013 NERBC Champion!)
“The first thing we need to create epiphanies for customers is accessibility.”
What more can we say about NERBC Champ Sam Lewontin? We already called him “The Best Barista in New York City“, an argument one could have made well before his competition triumph. You can read a full write-up of Mr. Lewontin's routine here, in a feature that ran the day of his win.
A huge congratulations to Samuel Lewontin, Everyman Espresso, and Counter Culture Coffee for their 2013 NERBC win. We're quite sure there will be plenty more for us to say on Sam come USBC time in Boston (April 11th – 14th), and we'll be joining Mr. Lewontin on the 2013 Cafe Imports Origin Trip to Kenya, alongside fellow 2013 regional winners Charlie Habegger, Lemuel Butler, Pete Licata, and Devin Chapman.
For now, we look forward to the upcoming Southwest Regional Barista Championship in Santa Cruz, California, hosted by Verve Coffee Roasters. SWRBC is the last piece of the regional championship puzzle, and USBC is just 5 weeks away. Watch Sprudge.com and follow @SprudgeLive on Twitter for the very best coverage from the 2013 United States Barista Championship competition cycle.