Radames Roldan, a barista with Blueprint Coffee in St. Louis, has won the 2015 South Central 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, and wins an all-expenses-paid trip to coffee farms in Colombia courtesy of Cafe Imports.
This is Radames Roldan’s first regional win, and first ever barista competition performance. Mr. Roldan’s competition success continues a proud tradition of barista competition culture at Blueprint Coffee, a collectively owned roaster/retailer in the Delmar Loop neighborhood of St. Louis. Opened in 2013, Blueprint is co-owned by Mike Marquard, a longtime barista competitor and previous regional champion and national finalist while at Kaldi’s Coffee in St. Louis; another Blueprint co-owner, Nora Brady, placed third over the weekend at Big Central, and will also advance to compete at the 2015 United States Barista Championship.
Roldan competed at Big Central using Blueprint Coffee’s Ethiopia Chiri, a washed process coffee from the Kaffa region of Ethiopia. This is a coffee with with pronounced lemon acidity and berry sweetness, notes that Roldan amplified in different ways throughout his winning routine. For a signature drink, Radames Roldan and the team at Blueprint drew from the simplicity of classic cocktails, creating a deceptively simple drink comprised of just four parts: espresso, blackberry syrup, a jasmine tea “rinse”, and expressed lemon aromatics. “I wanted to listen to what the coffee was saying and build around it,” Roldan told Spruge in a phone interview for this feature.
Signature drinks can be wild, elaborate creations, but for Roldan, the goal was simplicity. “I wanted to build something that was simple,” he said, “something within my capabilities. I didn’t want to do anything that was overreaching.” The resulting drink is easily replicable in recipe form—six shots of espresso, a half-ounce of blackberry syrup, tea rinse, a lemon twist—but as in the cocktail world, it’s the actual craft of building the drink that determines its final form. Roldan told us, “You can get an old fashioned from 5 places, built with the same parts, but it’s the individual construction of it that can make one head and shoulders above all the rest. That’s amazing—I appreciate that—and that’s what inspired me in making this drink.”
Before too long, Roldan will have to begin training again for the upcoming United States Barista Championship, beginning February 9th in Long Beach. But for now it’s back to work as usual: “I close tomorrow,” this working barista told Sprudge. Between now and USBC it’ll be a matter of analyzing his success at regionals, and hoping to replicate it on a bigger stage. It makes this first-time competitor a huge wild card to watch at the upcoming nationals.
“I did something right,” Radames Roldan told us humbly, still clearly glowing from his perhaps unexpected big win at Big Central. “Now I need to figure out what that was.”
Sprudge’s coverage of the 2015 Big Central Barista Competition is sponsored by Square, Wilbur Curtis Company, and Cafe Imports. Much more from #BigCentral can be found over at SprudgeLive.com, our global coffee competition hub.
All photos by Zachary Carlsen for Sprudge.com.