Over the weekend, Katie Carguilo took the champion title at the annual USBC event -- that would be the United States Barista Championship and not the United States Bowling Congress (though that, too, apparently had everyone on pins and needles this weekend). Hosted by the Specialty Coffee Association of America, the U.S. Barista Championship was part of a four-day coffee extravaganza in Portland, Ore., that was one part competition and one part Comic-Con for coffee geeks. More than 50 baristas came ready to compete; each had 15 minutes to pull espressos, pour cappuccinos and create signature drinks before a panel of judges, all while explaining the coffees and otherwise being professional and attentive. You know, like every barista on every weekday morning.
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While four "sensory" judges evaluated the taste of the prepared drinks (2012 USBC Official Rules and Regulations Rule 14.2.3: "Sensory judge will stir the espresso THREE (3) times with a spoon (moving the spoon front to back in a "rowing" motion) to mix the flavors within the shot, then immediately taste. Sensory judges will take at least two complete sips to fully evaluate the espresso"), two other judges scrutinized the barista's technical abilities. Ultimately, the judges were looking for a barista who had excellent technical and communication skills, displayed a knowledge for coffee beyond the drinks served during the competition and would be "a role model and a source of inspiration for others."
And that champion was Katie Carguilo from Counter Culture Coffee, who bested her five fellow competitors during the finals round and will head to Vienna in June to represent the United States at the World Barista Championship. If she wins there, she'll be only the second American -- and the first woman -- to be crowned World Barista Champion since the competition began in 2000.
Locally, Charles Babinski of Intelligentsia Coffee and Tea finished second (according to coffee news site Sprudge, Babinksi competed using an organic coffee sourced from Bolivia priced at a pricey $71 per 12 ounces). Chris Baca from Santa Cruz's Verve Coffee Roasters placed third.
In the other competitions that took place over the weekend, Andy Sprenger from Ceremony Coffee Roasters won the Brewers Cup, which focuses on brewed coffee. Stephen Bauer had the best palate at the U.S. Cup Tasters Championship, with Juliet Han from Intelligentsia finishing third.