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    Entries in barista (16)


    2013 Seoul Recap, Part 2: The ABWG

    The reason I went to Seoul in the first place was to judge the Angel-in-us Barista World Grand Prix (ABWG). From first moment after I cleared customs in Seoul, Angel-in-us (sounds like “Angelina’s”) made me feel welcome. Despite the fact that my plane was nearly two hours late in arriving (we had a late start and some strong headwinds), my greeter met me with a smile at the airport. He did not complain (at least to me) when it took us two hours to get from the airport to downtown in rush hour traffic. (Travel note: My trip was long, but I had it much easier than some of the other participants. One of the baristas traveled more than 37 hours, from Chile to Seoul, via Atlanta. Two judges, traveling from Europe, spent an unplanned night in a hotel in Istanbul.)

    When we finally did make it into Seoul, we skipped the hotel and went directly to the welcome dinner (most of which I missed), where the gathered judges and baristas went over the competition rules. The baristas also drew lots for the presentation order. After dinner, a short walk through Seoul’s Gangnam district to the hotel felt good, despite the cold weather. Seoul’s nighttime brilliance dulled the chill in the air.

    The ABWG stage. Photo courtesy Jinsu Lee.The next morning, after a short sleep and a hearty breakfast, we reported to the massive Coex exhibition hall for a short calibration session prior to the start of the competition.

    Click to read more ...


    Five questions for….Bernie Diveley, Barista at Coffee Division

    Note: “Five Questions for…” is a new article series, consisting of short Q&As to help you get to know the people who work in and around coffee. I send the person ten questions, and he or she gets to pick five to answer (in this case, Diveley chose to answer more than five). Some will be in Portland, others elsewhere. Responses may be edited for grammar, clarity and, if necessary, brevity.

    Bernie Diveley works as a barista at Coffee Division, the flagship café for 5 Points Coffee Roasters, at SE Division and 35th Place. Coffee Division is one of my regular stops in Southeast PDX (I wrote about half of my book there). A burgeoning coffee enthusiast, Diveley always seems to have a smile on his face to greet customers. He doesn’t seem to mind answering my coffee questions, and once helped me out by loaning me a coffee documentary on DVD. Originally from Los Angeles, Diveley first came to Portland in 2007.Diveley in action

    How did you get into coffee?

    When I moved to Portland I quickly realized how much coffee was a part of this city.  I got hired at Peet's on Hawthorne and after having my first natural processed Ethiopian my view of coffee completely changed.  I then worked at Lone Pine Coffee Roasters in Bend for a couple years and I was really able to work on my skills as a barista.

    What is your most memorable coffee experience?

    My first tasting note when cupping. Snickers!

    Who are your biggest influences in coffee?

    Duane Sorenson, Geoff Watts, Peter Giuliano, James Hoffman, James Freeman, Paul Katzeff, Michael Phillips and Tom Owens.

    What is your specialty as a barista?

    My specialty as a barista is remembering to give thanks before pulling a shot or steaming milk. I realize that I'm at the end of a long chain and I know a lot of work went into that chain.  There's a lot to be thankful for when making a drink. The fruit itself, the farmers, the cows, all the harvesting, processing and shipping, the machines, the water, my health. And I respect the customers time and the money they give for a memorable coffee experience.

    What do you do when you’re not serving coffee?


    What’s your hidden superpower that few people know about?

    I do pull ups, push ups and sit ups everyday.  SSHHH...

    Where did your last best shot come from (other than at your own shop)?

    Flight of Heart espresso from Either/Or (in Sellwood).

    What’s the best beer in Portland?

    Laurelwood.  Free Range Red – Malty, or Workhorse IPA  - Hoppy

    What’s your dream job?

    Drummer in a jazz band, like Mel Brown.

    And the result


    Coffee school – Two days at ABCS

    Many coffee people have told me that being a barista is difficult. Whenever they say that, I am always skeptical. How hard could it be?

    To find out, I took a two-day barista course at the American Barista and Coffee School last week. The class, led by ABCS’s Tom Pikaart and Sara Ziniewicz, was designed to give students a hands-on introduction to pulling espresso shots, steaming milk, pouring latte art, and maintaining equipment. Eight students took the class, at ABCS’s headquarters on Water Avenue. Some of the students had their own cafés, and others worked for roasters, supporting wholesale accounts. Most had at least some prior coffee knowledge or training.

    In his opening remarks, Pikaart made it clear that the purpose of the course was not to perfect our technique. Rather, it was to teach us how to approach learning the craft of being a barista. No one can become an espresso expert in two days, he told us, but you can learn what you need to know to get started. If you have the right mindset, competence will follow. These were the five things he said we needed to focus on:

    • Cleanliness
    • Self-betterment (self-improvement)
    • Passion
    • Self-discipline
    • Consistency

    Dialing, pulling, steaming, pouring

    After an introduction to the principles and procedures of making espresso, we moved over to the machines and got to work. One of the coolest things about ABCS is the number of different grinders and espresso machines students can try during the class. Our group spread itself out between four different espresso machines, and there were an additional three or four more we did not use.

    The first activity was to dial in the grinders. To do this, we adjusted the distance between the grinder’s burrs, which changes the fineness of the grounds. Every day, as conditions in the café change (temperature, humidity, etc.), baristas must make small adjustments to the grind so the espresso tastes good. Knowing how to do this is a critical skill for a barista.

    Once we had the grinders where we wanted them, it was time to make some espresso. The first shot I pulled was comically slow, and, as I had to stop and think about each step in the process. As we pulled more and more shots, my technique became more fluid. I would like to think my espressos got better over time, too.

    After lunch, we moved on to milk. Steaming milk was less intimidating. Having steamed a lot of milk as a Starbucks barista, I had some idea of what to watch and listen for. It was fairly easy to adapt the techniques Tom and Sara told us about to what I already knew.

    Tom Pikaart teaching latte art theory

    Pouring latte art, on the other hand, was completely new. Latte art, a common sight in Portland cafés, does not necessarily make the drink better, but it does indicate how serious the baristas in a café take their craft. This is an example of what we were aiming for:

    A soft heart, poured by our instructor

    I found that pouring beautiful latte art is not easy, especially when you are starting out. (You can see a couple of my early tries below).

    Not going to win any competitions, but not bad for a beginner

    Getting better...

    Teaching others

    One of our exercises the second day was to teach a partner how to make a (caffè) latte. We had to write down (from memory) all the steps, then our partner was supposed to follow them exactly, no matter how many things we left out. I had thirty steps on my list, and I still forgot a couple. The lesson helped me understand why some café owners train their employees for a month before allowing them to make drinks for a customer. It takes time to make all these steps automatic.

    Another important takeaway from the class was how important cleanliness is to the quality of the products. Both Tom and Sara emphasized how important it is to clean the machine regularly and thoroughly. Roasted coffee is full of oils that can creep into the hidden nooks and crannies on grinders and espresso machines. These oils degrade as they contact the air, and produce some funky flavors and odors if left long enough. For practice, we pulled our espresso machine apart and cleaned all the parts that come into contact with the coffee.

    One thing that surprised me about the course was its emphasis on using our five senses to monitor the quality of our drinks. I had expected we would rely more on scales, stopwatches and thermometers, and while Pikaart advocated using these devices to check a barista’s consistency, he said we need to be able to use our senses. Measuring everything, every time, is too time-consuming to use in a café setting. and with practice and attention to detail, a barista can learn to be very accurate and consistent using just the five senses.

    Lesson learned

    After taking the class, I understand why people say being a barista is hard. With so many minute details that factor into making great drinks, you need to practice for a long time to become good. It takes time to master the skills of the craft.

    “Being a professional is an attitude. It is not a skill set,” Pikaart told us, as he closed out the class. We might not start out as experts, but we will get there if we keep learning.

    A good lesson not just for being a barista, but for life as well.



    Welcome to Portland!

    If you are out and about in Portland’s coffee shops the next few days, you might overhear more in-depth coffee conversations than normal. In case you haven’t heard, Portland is hosting the Specialty Coffee Association 2012 Event. The Event, the largest gathering of the year for the specialty coffee industry, consists of a trade show/exposition, a symposium for coffee professionals and the US Barista Championships. It might be the largest collection of coffee nerds ever convened in one place.

    Here are a few things you might want to check out during the week.

    SCAA Exposition

    The Exposition is a huge trade show where you can walk around and be wowed by all things coffee. You’re sure to find lots of interesting demonstrations and all the coffee you can possibly taste in one day.


    • When: Friday and Saturday 11am-5:30pm, Sunday 11am-4:30pm

    • Where: Convention Center (map)

    • Cost: Three-day pass (includes the trade show, USBC and Expo Lectures) costs $295 for non-SCAA members. One and two-day passes (no lectures) are available for $115 and $185, respectively. You can get more details on tickets here:

    • Find out about lectures and other events here.

    United States Barista Championship (USBC)

    The USBC runs concurrently with the SCAA Event. Fifty-six top baristas from around the United States will be competing over four days for the title of US Barista Champion.


    • Where: Convention Center (map)

    • When:

      • Round 1 – Thursday and Friday 9am-5pm

      • Semi-finals – Saturday 10am-4:30pm

      • Finals – Sunday 12-3pm

      • Cost: $10 for a 3-day pass

      • For more information visit the USBC website, where you can the competition’s rules and regulations, see a full competition schedule and watch a live stream of all competitors.

    Portland has seven baristas competing in the USBC. Here is their schedule:

    • Tyler Stevens, Barista – Thursday 9:15am

    • Ann Schneider, Sterling – Thursday 9:34am

    • Brett Felchner, Barista – Thursday 12:44pm

    • Thomas Pikaart, Water Avenue – Thursday 2:19pm

    • Collin Schneider, Sterling – Thursday 2:38pm

    • Laila Ghambari, Stumptown – Friday 10:31am

    • Devin Chapman, Coava – Saturday 11:33am (automatically qualified for semi-finals as regional champ)

    Good luck to all 56 competitors!


    Another event to put on your calendar is Coffeelandia, a street party hosted by Portland Roasting Coffee, CBI, Boyd’s, World Cup Coffee and others. It should be a rousing event. Coffee people know how to party. Really, they do.


    • When: Friday, April 20 7pm-11pm

    • Where: Outside Portland Roasting, Southeast 7th and Oak (map)

    • Cost: Your $10 donation supports Portland Global Initiatives and Global Brigades and their water projects in Honduras.

    • Other: Entry comes with three alcoholic drinks, plus live music, dance and karaoke. Coffee drinks will be free.

    • This is a 21 and over event, so you'll have to leave the kids at home.

    • More details at the Coffeelandia website.

    Discover: Lever

    Learn about the Astoria Gloria lever espresso machine at Clive Coffee. The event description promises a “hands-on educational experience,” so if you go, you’ll probably get your chance to try your had a pulling a shot or two.

    • When: Thursday, April 19 6pm-9pm

    • Where: Clive Coffee, 79 Southeast Taylor (map)

    • More details at the event’s facebook page.

    Coffee Tours

    Between the show and the other happenings, you might not have much time to visit PDX cafés, but if you can sneak out for a quick coffee tour, here are a couple itineraries to help streamline your explorations:

    • Downtown Power Tour (map): Coffeehouse Northwest -> Barista (Pearl) -> Caffè Umbria -> Courier -> Public Domain -> Spella -> Stumptown (Downtown)

    • Eastside Quickie (map): Water Avenue -> Coava -> Heart

    • Northern Sips (map): Ristretto (Williams) -> Albina Press -> Barista (Alberta) -> Caffé Vita

    • Killingsworth Crawl (map): Red E -> Coffeehouse Five -> Extracto

    It should be a great week for coffee lovers. Prepare yourself to hear about more coffee origins, roasting profiles, espresso machines, extraction percentage, barista competitions, grinder technology, etc. than you ever have before. Hopefully, you’ll get a little sun to go with your coffee. Enjoy!


    Slugging Espressos

    In the last couple days, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting three top Portland cafés: Coffeehouse Northwest, Extracto and Barista Alberta. If we were talking about baseball (and the season is just around the corner), these three cafés would be comparable to the 1927 Yankees (the famed “Murderer’s Row”). In other words, I was expecting a great lineup of espressos.

    At Coffeehouse Northwest I ordered both of the espressos on grind (the famous flight), each roasted by Sterling. The first, from Los Piajos de Tolima (from Colombia), was impressive. If I were scoring it for a barista competition, I would give it high marks in many categories. The appearance of the crema was shiny and consistent, the persistence and consistence very good (thick and lasting). The taste was well-balanced—sweet, sour and bitter elements all came through in a way that was pleasant. A sweet plum flavor punctuated the first sip. Its tactile balance, or mouthfeel, was superb. It had lots of body but still fit comfortably inside my mouth.

    After enjoying the Colombia, I took the second leg of the flight, to Rwanda. The coffee, grown by the Coko cooperative, was also roasted by Sterling.  The crema had an even color with a light sheen, but it was a little on the thin side. When I sipped it, I immediately noticed the differences in mouthfeel compared to the first. It was very heavy and syrupy. The acidity was the most prominent of the flavor components, although it did not overpower the others. The coffee left an aftertaste of toasted popcorn (where some of the kernels had been on the bottom of the pan too long, adding some caramelized flavors to the mix). Overall, very good but not quite as good as the first.

    At Extracto , the single-origin espresso I tried was a Kimel peaberry from Papua New Guinea. Savory, savory, savory—that’s how it tasted. The barista said the earthiness should really stand out. He wasn’t kidding. The thick espresso had the bite of a fresh rosemary leaf or green tomatoes. The bitter element stood out a touch more than the sweet or the sour, but all three were present, so it was fairly balanced.

    My second Extracto espresso was the blend on grind (unfortunately, I forgot to ask the name). Like the previous espresso, it was also very thick and syrupy. Cocoa notes came through in the first sip and caramel flavor about halfway down the cup. The espresso left an aftertaste kind of like a Twix candy bar (without adding any sugar).

    A couple blocks away, at Barista Alberta, I headed back to South America and ordered a single-origin Peru Cevasa, roasted by Stumptown. A quick visual inspection gave the coffee good marks – it had an even, shiny reddish crema (a small blond stripe in the middle would cost it the “excellent” rating in competition). The first sip was bright, but the brightness quickly backed off. Flavors of green apple washed across my palate. Although the espresso seemed heavy at first, it did not linger, quickly dissipating and leaving a clean mouthfeel behind. 

    Looking at the box score, the cafés went 5 for 5 with two home runs (the Colombia and the blend at Extracto).  Not even the most feared lineup in the history of baseball could do that every day. I tip my hat to a job well done. 


    Barista Alberta - the great escape

    It is easy to argue that Portland’s weather is a big factor in why the city has so many cafés. Drinking copious amounts of coffee is one way to fight the blues that can accompany long stretches of nothing but clouds and rain.

    While caffeine will keep you going for a while, relying on a coffee-only strategy to push away the dreariness will only carry you through part of the winter. By the end of February, you need an additional strategy to deal with the grayness. Otherwise, the next three months of clouds and rain will drive you crazy.

    My strategy for making it through the early part of spring is to go into denial. After three years in Portland, I still haven’t bought an umbrella. Part of the reason is thrift, part sheer stubbornness, and part is just a way of maintaining a connection with my hometown, where it doesn’t rain enough to warrant buying an umbrella. Living in my own version of reality, I have come to accept that sometimes I will be lucky and stay dry and sometimes I will get soaked.

    On a recent trip to visit Barista Alberta (a.k.a. Barista II), I started out with fortune on my side, narrowly escaping a good drenching as I walked to the bus stop. As I stepped into the shelter, the skies cut loose. By the time I reached Northeast PDX, though, the rain had stopped and the ground was dry. I stepped off the bus at 42nd and Alberta, thinking I could quickly walk the ten blocks or so to the café, safe from the whims of the weather. 

    My luck did not hold, however. By the time I reached the café, twenty-five blocks later (travel tip: always check the address of where you’re going before you get off the bus), the rain had returned and I was sopping wet.  The walk was worth it though, for Barista Alberta is a café unlike others in Portland.


    Approaching the front door of the café, I was somewhat wistful. Barista Alberta represented a sort of milestone in my coffee journey. There are other cafés in PDX that I have yet to visit, but of the top-tier, coffee-centered cafés, Barista Alberta was the last one I had to visit. I have known about the café for the last year and a half, but for one reason or another, had not yet made it there. I’m glad I saved it until last. I would not have appreciated it as much had I visited a year earlier.

    One of the few cafés in town to carry the Financial Times, Barista Alberta caters to the artsy crowd as well as the banker crowd. With its dark wood paneling, the café feels like the study of a distinguished 19th century aristocrat. Stuffed antelopes, pheasants and ducks stare down at you from the walls with suspended indifference. If you visited the café in another era, you would expect to see men in tweed suits sitting around the tables, smoking cigars with each other, planning mergers and acquisitions or complaining about the current political landscape. In the current age, however, you see people enjoying finely-crafted coffees and staring intently at their laptops.

    As expected, Barista’s espresso menu featured multiple roasters’ coffees. There were three espressos available on grind—Stumptown’s Ethiopia Yurga, Heart’s latest from Guatemala, and the Honduran Esmerín Enamorado from 49th Parallel in Vancouver, B.C. I didn’t check what was available as brewed coffee—why bother?

    After a moment’s deliberation, I chose the Honduras Esmerín Enamorado. The barista pulled a nice, smooth shot that was rich and creamy. The flavors reminded me of buttered popcorn, with a sweet hint of prunes at the finish.

    Sentiment permeated the air and my spirits were lifted as I sat at a corner table. Over the speakers, Toto sang about “blessing the rains down in Africa” (how could I curse the rains in Portland while listening to that song?). When Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” came on, I was transported back to my days in elementary school (it’s weird how music does that to you—every time I hear  a Journey song, I think of the 1980’s Journey video game we played at the local pizza parlor. If you don’t remember it, here’s a humorous YouTube review of the game to rekindle some memories).

    With some of the finest baristas in town, Barista Alberta is creating a new, 21st-century aristocracy—that of quality coffee. The café stands out for the uniqueness of its form and the quality of its substance. It can be hard for cafés  to distinguish themselves in this town, but Barista II clearly succeeds. You can visit the cafe to explore espressos or to escape the melancholy of spring. You could even try to hide in there until the rains go away and summer arrives. Just be sure to save me a table. I hope to return soon.

    Address: 1725 NE Alberta, Portland OR 97211 (map)
    Phone: No
    Hours: Monday-Friday 6am-6pm
                Saturday-Sunday 7am-6pm
    Wi-Fi? Yes
    Recommendations? Sit at the bar and watch the baristas in action


    Competitive coffee II - Judgment day

    Day 1 – How I became a judge

    When I woke up Friday morning, the first thing that popped into my mind was the four elements of the espresso category along with the things I should be looking for in each one. I was focused. At least I hadn’t dreamed about cappuccinos.

    We went to the convention center an hour before the start of the competition to do a little more calibration of our palates. We judged a few espressos and cappuccinos and returned to the judges’ chambers (really just a side room).

    At 12pm, we got the call to come judge. We filed out into the competition hall, were introduced, shook the competitor’s hand and took our places. It was time to see if our training had prepared us.

    Competition protocol

    The protocol for SCAA-sponsored barista competitions is standard throughout the United States. During the competition, baristas have 15 minutes to prepare their competition station. The station is set up with a machine table (where the espresso machine sits), a preparation table (for storing milk and other ingredients) and the judges table (where the four sensory judges sit, and act as customers). As the barista prepare, they calibrate their grinder and carefully lay out the tools they will need to make the drinks. Usually, they set out plates, napkins, water glasses and spoons at the judges’ table.

    After the 15 minute prep time, the judging team enters and takes its place. That’s when the main competition really begins.

    Each barista must make three sets of four drinks during the 15 minutes – an espresso, a cappuccino and a signature beverage for each of the four sensory judges. That’s 12 drinks in 15 minutes! It would be a difficult challenge for a barista accomplish anytime and even more so with the pressure of competition weighing on them. Baristas must be efficient and fluid with their movements. The baristas are expected to talk about the coffee(s) they are using, describing the origin and the characteristics that make their chosen coffee special.

    Seven judges evaluate each competitor’s performance. This includes two technical judges, a head judge and four sensory judges. The technical judges hover over and around the competitors while they are presenting, watching how the barista grinds, tamps, uses towels, keeps the station clean, and a myriad of other details.

    The head judges watch the other judges to make sure they are judging consistently. The head judge tastes many of the drinks, often writing down their own scores. These scores do not count, but it does help the head judge estimate what the sensory judges should be scoring each drink. If there are any major discrepancy between the judges, the head judge helps resolve them.

    I chose to be a sensory judge, for several reasons. First, I had done a lot of “sensory evaluation” (drinking espresso) over the last year and a half, so I knew I would feel more comfortable as a sensory judge. Second, technical judges have a large number of small things to watch and it helps to have a lot of barista experience. Most importantly, the sensory judges are the ones who get to taste the drinks. How could I go to a barista competition and not taste the drinks?

    Put your tastes aside

    As a sensory judge, one challenge was to put my biases aside and base my observations on the rules set by the competition committee. When I go cafés, I often “judge” the espresso and talk about its flavors. Most of my observations are highly subjective, which is fine in context of the blog. However, it doesn’t make for good competition scoring. To be a good judge, you have to be able to discard your own preferences and judge the espressos against the standards in the rule book. For espresso, this means you evaluate the crema, first for its color, then for its persistence and consistency.

    Next, you mix the espresso three times from front to back, using the small spoon that the barista is required to provide. An espresso should have a balance of sweetness, sourness and bitterness, and these reside at different levels in the cup. Mixing the espresso allows you to detect all three flavors in each sip (assuming they are present). In addition to the taste balance, you also evaluate its “tactile balance,” or what coffee people often refer to as mouthfeel. These characteristics test the barista’s skills at pulling shots.

    Cappuccinos are judged in a similar manner. The first criterion is visual appeal, which doesn’t mean the barista is skilled at latte art. Instead, judges are looking for contrast, sheen, balance, symmetry and whether or not there is a complete brown espresso ring around the outside of the milk in the center. Once the judges have evaluated the visual aspect, they take a spoon and push it across the foam of the cappuccino to check the persistence and consistency (“per-con,” in judging lexicon). Foam must be 1cm thick or more for the cappuccino to score Very Good in the per-con category.

    After checking out how they look, the judges sip the cappuccino to determine its “taste balance.” Both sips must be taken in a location on the rim where the foam was not disturbed by the spoon. The judge should be able to detect a pleasant balance between the sweetness of the milk and the more bitter espresso flavors. The temperature should also be a temperature that you can drink the cappuccino immediately, without letting it cool.

    The third category of drinks, the signature beverage category, has criteria that are less defined. The baristas get to express their creativity in making a drink, so some of the drinks are very complex. I have seen baristas add coffee reductions, gum syrup, star fruit juice, a raspberry ganache, an infusion of hops—you name it, and a barista has tried it.

    It is somewhat harder to calibrate for the signature beverages because they are different from competitor to competitor, but no matter what, the drink should be designed to feature the espresso. One of the keys for baristas who want to score well in the “sig bev” category is to clearly explain what they are doing so that the judges know what to expect. They should also remember that the espresso is central to the drink – i.e., whenever they are thinking about how to compose the drink, they should think how all of the additions showcase the espresso. It is easy to forget that. The beverage can be delicious, but if the judge cannot taste a strong espresso presence, it will receive a low score.

    During the calibration, the head judges and trainers drilled the procedure and evaluation criteria into our heads, constantly reminding us that we had to remove our own tastes and biases from the evaluation process as much as possible. They had us focus on describing what we saw, so that we could justify the scores that baristas would receive.

    Speed is important when you are a sensory judge. You need to quickly evaluate the drinks, because any time lag negatively effects the quality of the beverages. The crema on the espresso is its thickest and most stable when it is first served. So is the foam on the cappuccino. A judge cannot hesitate. With an espresso, for example, the judges’ thought process is something like, “color, tip forward, tip back, stir, stir, stir, sip once, sip twice, give it a score.” Then you take a couple notes to support the score you give it. You have to do this in a few seconds. At first, you go slowly trying to remember everything, but the process becomes automatic over time.

    After each competitor, we went back to the judges room to finish our score sheets. Our head judge gently pushed us to make any corrections necessary. His experience was super helpful as we struggled a couple times to come up with the justification for our scores. Instead of telling us to change our scores (both upward and downward, by the way), he had us justify the score we gave the competitors. If we had good justification for what we experienced, he let the score stand.

    The trainers’ instructions rattled around my mind as I sat at the table, trying hard to concentrate on what the barista was saying. While we were finishing the score sheets, the head judges told us to be sure to make eye contact and smile with the competitors to make them feel more at ease. I thought we had been, but apparently we were all concentrating so hard on getting the judging right that we forgot to smile. It was easier to smile for the next two. We were all more relaxed by then.

    Worth doing again

    Each of the competitors put in a lot of work preparing, and I felt honored to be a part of the team that judged them. As they told us in the beginning of the training, one of the main roles of a judge is to support the baristas as professionals. We’re not there to “judge” them (okay, yes we are), but rather to give them feedback for all their preparation and make the competition as much fun as possible. Everyone wants to help raise the specialty coffee industry’s profile and these competitions are an opportunity to do that.

    We (the judges) appreciated the hard work they put in as they prepared for the competition. My highest praise goes to our trainers, the head judges who got us ready for judging (and scared the hell out of us with those tests). Above all, I would like to thank Mike Strumpf, of Swiss Water, who was the head judge on my judging team on Friday. Mike did a fantastic job guiding us. His experience and expertise was obvious as he led us when we needed help making the proper scoring decisions.

    Looking back, I had a great time judging, and plan to do it again sometime. Hopefully it will work out to judge at the USBC when it comes to Portland in April. See you there?


    I left Tacoma for Portland on Friday (if you missed the story of that misadventure, it’s here), but I did watch parts of the next two days on my computer. If you look closely, you might see a couple of local PDX coffee people in the screen shots of the competition.

    The finals took place on Sunday afternoon. The top six competitors from the previous two days presented their routines for the judges one more time. This year, the six finalists were all from Portland (I told you Portland was the center of the specialty coffee universe). Sam Purvis (the 2010 NWRBC champion), and Devin Chapman represented Coava, Laila Ghambari represented Stumptown, Collin Schneider competed for Sterling/Coffeehouse Northwest and Tyler Stevens and Marty Lopes came from  Barista.

    Devin Chapman finished first, Laila Ghambari, second, and Tyler Stevens, third. Chapman also won the regional Brewer’s Cup (for the second consecutive year), so he had a heck of a Sunday. He will automatically be entered in the semi-final round at the USBC, and the other five competitors can enter the first round of the USBC, if they choose. Portland is going to be well-represented as it competes on its home turf.