There’s an event in coffee industry that has been happening every few months or so since 2011. This event’s motto is “No barista left behind.” It’s a free event for baristas to go and learn even more about coffee from industry leaders both in and around their community. It’s a great opportunities for baristas to learn more about coffee because as much as most of us would love to go to Barista Camp or Coffee School, which they do exist. Although on a barista income, most of us can not afford it. That is why Barista Nation was formed. Ever since I read about this event in the Barista Magazine and all over social media, I couldn’t wait for it to come to the midwest.
Last week Barista Nation finally made it to the midwest. Even better, it made it’s way to Kansas City. The weekend consisted of the LAB’s Caffeine Crawl, a 3 day event this year, then followed by Barista Nation which was followed by the Specialty Coffee and Tea Week in Kansas City. The day began with meeting new and familiar faces, and of course drinking coffee. This event began with everyone being quiet and sticking with their groups, but by the end of the day new relationships were being made, business cards were being exchanged. A perfect way to end with an awesome after party with DJ Sprudge and Kansas City’s Cowtown Throwdown, our latte art throwdowns in town. Barista Nation took place at About the Coffee. If you are in Kansas City, you need to make your way down there. It’s essentially where baristas love to go hang out, experiment, get really nerdy about coffee, and even come up with ideas for future events or even the future of the Kansas City coffee community.
There were 4 different break out times. Each session had a different theme such as Discovery or Development. All day you could go to the front of About the Coffee and play on the UNIC and learn from me and others in our coffee community on ways to improve your latte art skills. It was a lot of fun. By the end of event, a fellow barista I haven’t seen works at a church’s coffee shop and he couldn’t pour any latte art, but was determined to learn how. By the end of the day he was pouring hearts! We were all so excited and happy with him. He was so proud that he took a picture of his latte.
The first breakout was about Discovery. You could learn about steps to importing with Josh Burdett, from InterAmerican Coffee, or you could learn about how to craft your vision and facilitate a culture of excellence or Kick-assness from Gregory Kolsto of Oddly Correct. I went to learn about to channel my inner kick-assness. We talked about a ton of things. He told us to be proud of our stuff, our ideas and own it. He said, “Know it goes a long way when we kick ass.” He told us to do three things: show up, kick ass, and be kind. “If no one’s upset with what you are doing then you’re probably not pushing hard enough.” He closed out by saying continue to pursue what’s you. How true was everything. It made me rethink what I was wanting to do when I open my own shop one day.
The second panel was about Development. One of the panels was learning about the baskets and the espresso machine with Sauro Dall’Aglio. The other panel was about creating and delivering a great food program in a coffee focused environment with Marcus Boni and Keith Kildron of Kaldi’s Coffee. I sadly did not make it to either one of these panels because I was working on latte art with some people. I heard that the Kaldi’s crew brought gooey butter cake, a St. Louis staple, and some awesome granola bars. With all this coffee in our system, it is always a good thing to remember to put food in your system. Robin and her crew at the Filling Station provided awesome sandwiches and wraps for lunch.
There was a ton more mingling that took place. During the third breakout was about Discovery. Sarah Allen of Barista Magazine was talking about connecting with the community. I heard she incorporated a little bit of wine culture to this session. How we should not keep things to ourselves as coffee professionals, but also incorporating the people that come into our cafes on a routine basis, our community. Then Kate Blackman talked about her recent trip to Rwanda for the Cup of Excellence and shared some of the coffee she had in a cupping. I some of both of these panels because there was an impromptu friendly latte art throwdown in the front. It was a lot of fun. I met a group that came up from Tulsa.
The breakout was about Discovery. One was with Julia Leach from Toddy about linking summer and winter cold coffee drinks. This was the first session the alcohol came out. I heard the drinks were awesome. I went to the second option with Andre Santos. He discussed the coffee market fundamentals and coffee macroeconomics. There we learned a lot about the top coffee producing countries such as Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia, Indonesia, and India. I learned that Brazil typically sends out 60 million bags of coffee a year, on average. We also learned about differentials and hedges, and how the stock can affect the price of coffee. My brain literally hurt after this class. I can honestly say though that I have so much more respect for importers and roasters that deal with these numbers on a daily basis. I also realized that I still have so much to learn and that’s all I can do is just keep learning and taking in information.
The last session was about Development. Jacque De Marais from Kaldi’s Coffee did the session about coffee and cocktail. There is more to cocktail building than we expect, you can’t just throw bourbon and coffee together. You need to throw in other things like acidity, and bitters. She also made three examples of cocktails with coffee. These cocktails were so yummy. One was based off a dark and stormy and it had also contained a toddy of the Panama Lerida Estate from Kaldi’s. The other session was with Zachary Carlson from Sprudge. There we learned about coffee and milkshakes. He made us an awesome milkshake that they make at G and B in San Fransisco and it was amazing. He also made another version with rum.
At every Barista Nation event there is a keynote speaker. Our keynote speaker was the World Barista Champion, Pete Licata who works at Parisi Cafe here in town. He had a picture timeline of the different parts and people that helped shaped who he is as a coffee professional. It was awesome hearing him talk about the different people he has met along this road of making it to the WBC title. From the baristas he meets on a daily level and interacting with them to the fellow World Barista Champion All Stars from previous years. Cause he is like most of us, starting as a barista and just kept pursuing that passion at full force. This might sound cheesy but watching Pete talk about his journey and his passion for coffee and community was beautiful and I honestly can not wait until I get to do this one day. It was a long day, and it was definitely time to get down and dance on at the after party.
The after party was great. DJ Sprudge was busting out some awesome jams, and there was a barbeque food truck. No Kansas City event would be complete without barbeque and no coffee event would be complete without the free beer. During the after party, Cowtown Throwdown was taking place. It was a lot of fun. Dean and I had so much fun during our round. He beat me with this ridiculously beautiful swan. Erin Stillwell from Parisi Cafe came in first place, Dean Kallivrousis also from Parisi Cafe came in second place, and Simeon Bricker from the Roasterie came in third.
I am very grateful for this event. I am also very happy that it finally made it’s way to Kansas City. What started as a quiet event ended with so much laughter, dancing, and a ton of new friends. Thanks to Anastasia and the rest of the crew for bringing Barista Nation to Kansas City and for helping not only to help our Kansas City Coffee
Community to grow closer but as well as those coffee communities from the rest of the midwest.