World Barista Championship Interview - Pete Licata, Part 1

/files/United-States-Barista-Champion-2011.Pete-Licata.Courtesy.BeverageUnderground.png" target="_" alt="US Barista Champ Pete Licata - photo courtesy of Beverage Underground" title="US Barista Champ Pete Licata - photo courtesy of Beverage Underground" align="left" height="334" hspace="5" width="451" />The US Barista Championship is “long” behind us. Well, at least a couple of weeks. But we’re thrilled with the results and considering we’re only a couple of weeks away from the Big Event (yes, the World Barista Championship in Bogota, Colombia) I think it’s only fitting we give the stage to Pete Licata, who was crowned this year’s US Barista Champion.

In our next blog, we’ll look more in depth at Team Hawaii, the finely oiled machine that helped Pete achieve his prestigious title. But today, I want to take a moment to get to know Pete the barista. And to give his store some credit.

This year, Pete represented The Honolulu Coffee Company, a fast-growing coffee shop that has retail stores across Honolulu. Fittingly, the stores are broken down by tourist and local spots, and the clientele clearly matches the destinations. Pete’s main hub, at the Ala Moana Shopping Center, caters both to tourists and to locals.

Given that Pete represents multiple stores, it’s easy to lose the store’s quality and consistency when you expand. However, there are ways to prevent this trap. For one, training is key. It has to be “a big part of any coffee company” but applying the right training methods helps. Secondly, and as importantly, it’s “great to have equipment but you need to know how to maintain it and train baristas to actually be able to produce the quality and consistency each time.”

Pete is nearing 9 years in the industry, and like many other baristas, entered the coffee world as a means of supporting his studies. Lucky for him, he had the right connections and his induction sent him on a quick path to excellence. Not surprisingly, his coffee perception has evolved, similarly to how the coffee industry has leapt forward in the last decade.

After all is said and done, though, Pete is a simple man, one who doesn’t care for fluff & bling. His favorite coffee drink would be the drip coffee or a simple French Press. Although he enjoys espresso, he has to be in the right mood to actually seek it out. One thing he will agree on, however, is that in order to really enjoy the coffee, it has to be properly prepared. His advice? Make sure you have a good grinder and a good grinder scale. As he puts it, “you can make good coffee in many, many ways, with very basic tools.”

Having interviewed more and more baristas by now, I find that this seems to be a common theme. Coffee doesn’t need glitter & glitz to evoke passion from baristas, but it does need to be of great quality. In Pete’s case, he would say that “an overall balance is probably the biggest thing I care for, as far as the flavor,” and getting the right level of sweetness and acidity is key to achieving this.

What can we learn from Pete? Oh so much! But for one, it’s refreshing to know that even the best of the baristas can enjoy a simple cup of Joe. In our next feature, we’ll get to know the story that led to his crowning, so be sure to tune in.

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