Last week, baristas from the western part of the U.S. were in Palm Springs to showcase their considerable coffee-making skills during the 2015 Big Western Regional Barista Competition (yes, it's 2015 already, at least as far as coffee competitions are concerned).
And after several days of intense pouring and brewing, it ended on Friday, with L.A.-area baristas nearly sweeping the South West division of the Barista Competition: Charles Babinski from G&B Coffee and Go Get Em Tiger took first place, Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea's Eden-Marie Abramowicz took second and Cole McBride from PublicUS in Las Vegas was third.
In the Barista Competition, competitors have 15 minutes to present four espressos, four cappuccinos and four signature drinks for a panel of judges. While preparing the drinks, they also talk to the judges about their coffee, essentially using their drinks to illustrate an idea or theme.
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Back at work behind the bar over the weekend — apparently, winning a regional barista competition does not necessarily mean one gets a day off — Babinski said that the idea for his routine came from the "realism of [coffee shop] ownership and economic viability." Thus his presentation was very much a theory-meets-practice one, on how small coffee shops and coffee farms can benefit from large-scale business models. For the especially curious, video of the entire competition is available online.
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The event also featured the Brewers Cup, a competition focusing on manual brewing methods like pourover cones. Again, L.A. had a great showing: Intelligentsia's Sarah Anderson placed first in the South West division, followed by Blair Smith from Augie's Coffee Roasters in second place and Ryan Fisher from Denver-based Commonwealth Coffee in third.
The top six competitors from the Barista Competition and the top three from the Brewers Cup will advance to the U.S. Coffee Championships, where they will compete against other regional winners. That event will be held in Long Beach from February 19 to 22.