After three years of earning second place in specialty coffee's most intense national showmanship competition, Charles Babinski of Go Get Em Tiger and G&B Coffee was named 2015's U.S. Barista Champion Sunday at the U.S. Coffee Championships in Long Beach.
The Intelligentsia alum was not the only local winner at this year's competition either. In fact, Los Angeles had a record number of baristas and brewers make it into the final rounds, with two taking home top honors in the weekend's most intense areas of expertise.
Sarah Anderson, a senior barista at Intelligentsia in Pasadena, won first place in the U.S. Brewers Cup, a competition that focuses on manual (pour-over) coffee brewing methods; Todd Goldsworthy of Klatch Coffee's LAX location placed third. Also in the U.S. Barista Championships, which requires baristas to make 12 drinks in 15 minutes while they perform an explanatory routine to a musical playlist, Devin Chapman of Verve Coffee Roasters — competing for the first time as an L.A. representative (Verve's first L.A. shop opened a few weeks ago) — placed fifth.
That brings the total number of L.A.'s USCC placements in 2015 to four, out of seven who won at regionals and made it to the national competition floor — no small feat for a city that's only recently starting to earn recognition for its growing specialty coffee culture. And even though USCC was being held for the first time in L.A. County this year, don't call this year's sweep the result of a home-team advantage.
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"This is the first time that there has been such a strong showing from Los Angeles," says Peter Giuliano, director of symposium for the Specialty Coffee Association of America. "I think it is definitely an indication that Los Angeles is experiencing a 'coffee Renaissance' right now and has become over the past few years one of the strongest coffee cities in the U.S., which was definitely not true as recently as five years ago."
Babinski may be the only L.A. winner that competed in the name of a home-grown coffee shop, but experienced, based-elsewhere companies like Intelligentsia, Verve and Klatch are major forces in the industry as a whole, and their presence in L.A is only upping the quality and passion of local baristas and the consumers they serve.