For the second time in three years, Pete Licata is your United States Barista Champion. With 7 career USBC appearances, Mr. Licata is arguably the most seasoned, experienced barista competitor in US competition history. His previous USBC win came in Houston, Texas back in 2011, and he went on to place 2nd at the World Barista Championship in Bogota. His win in Boston returns Pete Licata on the world's biggest stage, where he'll represent his country in the upcoming World Barista Championship in Melbourne (May 22-26).
In a post-competition interview, Mr. Licata repeatedly told us how sincerely impressed, inspired, and even nervous the high level of competition at this year's USBC made him feel. “In 2011, I felt like I knew I had a good chance,” he told us. “But this year? I had no idea that I would win. How could anyone know? I honestly had no idea.”
It was clear to us in the audience that Pete was pretty firmly in the zone on stage, nattily dressed in a seafoam green button-up with a paisley tie. Pete cruised through his first routine in Semi-Finals, exuding confidence that comes from years of practice and presentation at competition coffee's highest level. Again, this is an astonishing seventh USBC appearance for Pete Licata, and at the end of the day – up against a historically talented field of competitors – his experience may well have helped Pete win it all.
5 notes from Pete Licata's routine at USBC:
• Pete Licata began his USBC-winning routine by handing instruction cards to his tech judges. We're used to seeing visual instructions and written materials distributed to sensory judges – this is commonplace, and a source of much experimentation for top barista competitors – but Pete's choice to issue materials to his tech judges is highly unusual, and representative of the intentionality at work throughout this routine.
• Mr. Licata's competition espressos were dosed at 20 grams in, extracting 38 grams out. He explained this ratio as being “with the intention of bringing out the best balance” in his producer's coffee. He described the resulting flavor notes in those espressos as having flavors of “red Zinfandel, a pop of cranberry, & then this deep, heavy sweetness that hits you in the back of the palate.” The judges evidently agreed.
• As in years past, Pete Licata put on a station maintenance and movement conservation clinic while on stage at USBC. He doesn't even really have to do station maintenance; he doesn't make a mess in the first place.
• Pete made a point of shouting out Parisi Coffee‘s roaster John Welsh, who he identified as one of the most important touchpoints in the journey of this coffee, alongside producer Arnulfo Leguizamo and his partners at Cafe Imports. For more on the work being done in Colombia by Arnulfo Leguizamo and Cafe Imports, check out our forthcoming supplemental feature running later today on Sprudge.
• Mr. Licata's signature drink was inspired by classic cocktails, and made use of implements you'd find at any cocktail bar worth its salt: coup glasses, industrial metal strainers, a gorgeous Japanese stirring pitcher, and chunky rocks of ice. The drink itself took cooled espresso, palm sugar simple syrup, and non-alcoholic bitters made with lemongrass and orange peel. He told the judges, “I don’t think a drink has to be incredibly complicated to be incredibly delicious.”
It's the opinion of Your Sprudge Editors that the 2013 United States Barista Championship will go down in history as the most fiercely competitive event of its kind in US history. Any one of the Finalists – heck, any one of the Semi-Finalists – would have a punching chance at winning the whole thing in Melbourne. So many new faces, so many gifted young competitors with glory shining bright on the horizon of their careers in specialty coffee.
But in a way it's poetic that Pete won. Mr. Licata *is* the USBC – he is its past, its present, and surely its future as a trainer and advocate. There's just one thing he has left to do, and that's win the whole dang thing Melbourne. We can't wait to watch what happens next.
Full finals standings:
6th Place – Charlie Habegger, Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea, Chicago
5th Place – Nick Purvis, The French Press, Santa Barbara, CA
4th Place – Sam Lewontin, Everyman Espresso, NYC
3rd Place – Trevor Corlett, MadCap Coffee Company, Washington DC
2nd Place – Charles Babinski, G&B Coffee, Los Angeles
1st Place – Pete Licata, Parisi Coffee, KCMO
Original photography by Charlie Burt for Sprudge.com.