Simon Fell > Its just code > WRBC roundup

Sunday, March 5, 2006

We headed up to Petaluma Saturday morning to check out the western regional barista competition, I'd read about the competition format in the past but never seen it in person before, It always sounded hard, but seeing it action really highlights how tough it is. The barista has 15 minutes to make a total of 12 drinks, 4 espresso's, 4 cappuccinos and 4 signature drinks (of their own recipe), as if that's not hard enough, there's a 5 star service and presentation aspect to it, where the barista has to set the table, talk about what they're doing and why and so on. The presentation aspects can easily eat up minutes of that precious 15 minutes, I noticed that some of the top competitors would take the first 3 minutes or so setting up the table, talking about the beans, what's drinks they'd be making on so on, leaving then a astonishingly small 12 minutes or so to make the 12 drinks and try and do some cleanup. Saturday saw 22 competitors go up, including a good turn out from San Francisco, Gabe and Ryan from Ritual and Eton and Danielle from Organica. I got to see most of the competitors, but not all of them, it's not exactly a great spectator sport to start with, so many of the points are tied up in taste, for which only judges know how that turned out, in addition it was hard to see the details from the floor, they really need to have either the overhead mirrors, or some kind of video system, so you can get a better look at the drinks and latte art that was made. The 4 stand out competitors for me on Saturday were Eton Tsuno from Cafe Organica, Heather Perry from Coffee Klatch, Emma Sanchez from Barefoot and Gabriel Bosscana from Ritual, these all did a great job on the presentation, looked poised and professional and did a good job of talking about what they were doing. Saturday evening came around and the 6 finalists were announced.

  • Eton Tsuno, Café Organica
  • Eugenia Chien, Barefoot Coffee
  • Ryan Brown, Ritual Coffee
  • Pele Aveau, Flying Goat Coffee
  • Gabe Boscana, Ritual Coffee
  • Heather Perry, Coffee Klatch

Great result for Ritual, both Ryan and Gabe make the finals, and with Eton from Organica making the finals as well, fully 50% of the finalists are San Francisco based, the SF coffee scene is rockin'. Sunday, the 6 finalists run again, same format, The Ritual folks seem to have brought half of the population of the mission up to Petaluma to cheer on their guys. The 6 finalists all do outstanding runs under the pressure, not only the time pressure, but there are a total of 7, yes 7 judges, 4 sensory judges, judging taste, presentation etc, 2 technical judges that are watch closely (very closely) on technique, wastage, cleanliness, preparation etc, and a head judge to tie it all together. After the 6 do their stuff, the judges disappear to finalize the results, everyone else mills around expectantly, taking advantage of "machine 4", one of the competition machines, staffed in rotation by the competitors and local roasters, a great way to try some new and different beans and drinks. The final results,

  • 1st place - Heather Perry, Coffee Klatch
  • 2nd pace - Gabe Boscana, Ritual Coffee
  • 3rd place - Eton Tsuno, Café Organica

Congrats to Heather, Gabe and Eton, outstanding job, and congrats to all involved, it seemed well organized, everything went smoothly, was a good turn out of both competitors and spectators (despite the general spectator unfriendliness of it) and for me was an interesting, educational and enjoyable weekend. The rate of growth in this top level of the industry means the bay area is going to continue to get to be a better and better place to be for coffee. (and, hot dammn, where can i snag one of those ritual ties ?)