Among the most exciting parts of the SCAA's big Event are the multiple competitions for a national title in the U.S. Coffee Championships. Over the course of the week, baristas and roasters compete in any of five separate national championships. All of the competitors have already won local and regional competitions to get this far, and many of them are well-known names in coffee, either nationally or regionally. The winners of the U.S. competitions will go on to compete in the World level competitions later in the year. Here's a recap of the events and the winners for all five competitions.
U.S. Barista Competition 2014
(Competition Sponsor: Espresso Supply Co.) Each barista gets 15 minutes to prepare and serve an espresso, a cappuccino and a signature drink for a panel of four sensory judges - that's 12 drinks in 15 minutes, for those who are keeping track. The barista gets to choose the coffees used, but must use the espresso machine provided by the competition. The sensory judges score each competitor for taste (they're looking for balance, here), presentation, technical skill and overall impression. and just in case the stress of preparing 12 drinks in 15 minutes wasn't enough, the barista is also expected to keep up a stream of chatter throughout the preparation, providing information and entertaining the judges while he or she works.
First Place: Laila Ghambari,Cherry Street Coffee House, Seattle WA
U.S. Brewers Cup
(Competition Sponsor: Bonavita
) The U.S. Brewers Cup is the manual brewer's answer to the espresso competition of the Barista Competition. The competitors go through two rounds of judging. The first round is a blind judging round, with all the competitors brewing the same coffee using a method/device of their own choosing. The top scorers advance to the second round, where each competitor brews and presents his or her own choice of coffee to the judges. On a side note, Andy Sprenger, who founded Sweet Bloom Coffee
, won the U.S. Brewer's Cup in 2011 and 2012. This year, he showed up in another competition - more on that later.
First Place: Todd Goldsworthy,Klatch Coffee, Los Angeles, CA
U.S. Latte Art Championship
(Sponsor: Espresso Parts) New to The Event in 2014, the U.S. Latte Art Championship lets baristas show off their artistic skills. If you think preparing 12 espresso drinks in 15 minutes is stressful, imagine having to whip out six lattes, topped with precise, beautiful works of art in a six minute presentation. That's the challenge facing competitors in the Latte Art Championship. Each competitor has to produce 2 free pour lattes, 2 identical designer lattes and 2 macchiatos for the judges. And they're not just judged on prettiness, either. The judges keep score on everything from presentation to cleanliness of the work area.
Update: The World Latte Art Championship was held this weekend in Melbourne, Australia. Germany's Christian Ulrich took home the first place honors.
First Place: Simeon Bricker, The Roasterie, Kansas City, MO
U.S Cup Tasters Challenge
While all of the other competitions challenge a barista to show off coffee-making skills, the Cup Tasters Challenge calls for a different -- and, we happen to think, equally important -- skill set: the ability to taste and discern taste differences between different cups of coffee. In this competitors don't serve coffee -- it's served to them, in eight sets of three cups (two of them identical) at a time. The challenge? Pick out the one from each set of three that doesn't belong. Oh, and do it eight minutes or less. Time counts. Our friend Andy Sprenger - two-time US Brewer's Cup winner, remember - took second place in the U.S. Cup Tasters Challenge 2014.
First Place: Amanda Juris, Starbucks, Seattle, WA
This year, the SCAA Event chose to highlight the art of artisan roasting, amplifying the profile of the Roasters Choice Competition and passing on the Coffee of the Year, which honors producers. Specailty roasters submitted samples of the coffee they feel best embodies their art and skill in advance of the event. The samples were judged by a panel of experts before the exposition began, and the top six coffees were served throughout The Event at the brew bar in the Coffee Championship Arena. Our friend Andy Sprenger took top honors in the 2010 Roasters Choice Competition, competing for Caffe Pronto before he founded Sweet Bloom - are you sensing a trend here, too?
1st Place:Andrew Bowman, Tony's Coffee, Bellingham, WA
All of us here at Coffee Kind extend sincere congratulations not only to the winners of each of the U.S. Coffee Competitions, but to every dingle coffee professional who competed in them at any level. They're all part of what makes specialty coffee so special.