On October 25 – 27, the regional barista competitions kicked off in Minneapolis with the Big Central Regional Barista Competition. This competition combines talented baristas from both the South Central and North Central regions. This competition took place at Upper Cut Boxing Gym which brought out the competitive side of everyone, even those not competing. This space was awesome. As soon as I walked into the space I was greeted with familiar faces. Friends that I met from the Big Central event in January, from the World Barista Championship in Melbourne, and even friends from our lovely Kansas Coffee Community.
In case you are not familiar with barista competitions, it works like this. A barista chooses a coffee or blend of coffees and gives a presentation about that coffee. Like where the coffee is from, how it was processed like wet or dry, where it was grown, and how it was roasted. While they are giving this information barista often have a theme, mine this year was about the art of coffee at each level such as origin, roasting, the barista, as well as the customer. Meanwhile the barista also has to make four shots of espresso, four single shot cappuccinos, and a signature drink. The coffee I used this year was the Panama Lerida Estate from Kaldi’s Coffee based out of St. Louis, Missouri. This coffee had a flavor profile of vanilla, green apple, and a lemon-lime acidity. My signature drink consisted of a reduction I made on stage with brown sugar, dried black figs, ginger, Madagascar vanilla bean, and water. I added 3 grams of this reduction to a shot glass then added a shot of espresso and instructed my judges to stir the drink together with a cinnamon stick. Essentially this competition is a way for the barista to show off their knowledge about coffee, their skill, as well as their creativity. It’s the art of coffee. Oh the catch is they have to do all of this in 15 minutes. For every second over 15 minutes they lose a point and then are disqualified after 16 minutes. Which is why these baristas spend an extra 15 – 30 extra hours a week for months leading up to competition training for this event. Baristas typically do not have a social life during this time. These competitions are like the March Madness, Super Bowl, World Series, or MLS Playoffs of the coffee industry. Everyone is watching to see who is going to be the barista representing the United States at the World Barista Competition.
This year was a marked improvement from my last competition. If you did not know, last year I got disqualified because of time. This year I came in 12th place in the South Central Region! What changed? A number of things. This year I was competing for a new company. Happily representing Latte Land and Kaldi’s Coffee Roasting Company. Another thing that changed was my support team. Homer’s supported me, but it was their first time having a barista competing. It was as new to them as it was for me. This year with being on t Kaldi’s Team, I had quite a few people that have competed in the past such as Jacque, David, Wyatt, and Luke. I also had an awesome roasting team, Tyler, Jeff, Bud, and Tony, who are all very knowledgeable about their trade. Then I can not forget Marcus, Josh, Liz, Tricia, Louis, Steve, Greg, and of course everyone at my cafe who I could bounce ideas and drinks on. This seems like a ton of people, you’re right, and I didn’t even mention them all. I could not do any of this without them. When I was in Melbourne watching the World Barista Championship, I noticed that the thing that set the champions apart from me was a team of people that was also knowledgeable in coffee, helped polished, made sure I had everything I needed, etc.
Barista competition may appear to be about the talent of the barista, but it’s so much more than that. That barista is not only representing themselves, the coffee they are using, the company they work for, but as well as the community they come from. Which is why everyone comes together to make sure that you are ready for anything that could happen. Even more, all of the baristas are representing the coffee industry. Every barista that competes probably told their customers about this event which shows those customers that their baristas are passionate about the coffee they serve and dedicated. It even gets them curious about the coffee they are drinking, which is really fun to see.
This year’s Big Central Regional Barista Competition was a success and I can’t wait for next year. I am really happy to say that Tyler Rovenstine of Oddly Correct took the title of South Central Barista Champion. I couldn’t think of a more deserving guy. He is a very talented barista and loves sharing knowledge with anyone and everyone that wants to learn more. I know he will do great representing Oddly Correct, the Kansas City Coffee Community, and the South Central Region well at the United States Barista Championship. Good luck friend!