19 April 2009

speaking of the world barista championship ...

The World Barista Championship was this weekend, in Atlanta, GA. The Championship is a crazy, wonderful event — coffee lovers, baristas, importers, roasters, espresso machine manufacturers, and anyone else interested in the business come together to see the best from each country compete.

Intelligentsia had 2009 National Champion Mike Phillips competing, who has a really compelling story. The four-sentence version of Doug Zell's post is this: Mike wasn't supposed to compete in the Nationals, as he hadn't placed in the top three in the Regionals. But he's a tireless and dedicated man, and he wanted to compete anyway. Which he did, which is kind of against policy, but people don't seem to mind that kind of thing so much after you go ahead and win the whole damned competition. Everyone was surprised, and also not surprised at all, and most of all really very proud.

The first round was on Saturday. Finalists were selected based upon the entrants' performance pulling shots of espresso, making cappuccino, and then presenting a signature drink of their own devising. The drink itself is only one part of the presentation. The competitor must also describe his or her development of the drink as well as what the panel of judges can expect to taste. You really have to know your stuff, to justify it and talk about it and back everything up with history and agronomy and taste, and then you really REALLY have to be able to reliably reproduce it in strange conditions (such as, say, a conference hall several thousand miles from where the drink was developed in the first place). It's not easy, and anyone who competes at all must be a master of their craft. I'm talking, like, 33ยบ Scottish Rite type mastery. There is not a heck of a lot of luck involved.

And the results are in, as of this afternoon:

1st Place: Gwilym Davies, United Kingdom
2nd Place: Sammy Piccolo, Canada
3rd Place: Michael Phillips, USA!
4th Place: Colin Harmon, Ireland
5th Place: Lee Jong Hoon, Korea
6th Place: Attila Molnar, Hungary

Congratulations to everyone who competed, most of all to Gwilym Davies for my own personal "Most Sharply Dressed" award, though Lee Jong Hoon gave him a run for his money. What a tie!

i promise

Intelligentsia Boot Camp is going well. We're ticking right along, taking our certification exams, dialing in, timing, brewing, tasting, steaming, swirling, pouring, and Making It Happen. But it's been a very hard couple weeks.

A lot of personal, bike, and financial bullshit has cluttered my focus. This is a mistake. There's too much on the line. Kyle Glanville, our fearless leader, has given all of us a huge chance at something really very amazing: To work for one of the best companies out there. To learn how to give this carefully-selected, hard-won, perfectly-roasted coffee the attention and care it deserves. And to take it to the final, integral level that turns an already great thing into a really, really-really effing wonderful thing. It's our job to ensure that all the hard work to get that bean to such great heights before it even reaches us is reciprocated with an equal level of care and mastery. We gotta stick the landing.

Nicely (yes, his name is Nicely) once said, "I made a promise to you all before I ever met you." I'm following up his promise with one of my own. I'm putting all that other stuff on hold for a bit — which is difficult; y'all KNOW I love bikes, not to mention dudes & money — and focusing on coaxing all the wonderful, complex, elusive flavors from the bean. I promise this to the farmers, to the roasters, to Kyle, to Tim, to Nicely, to Chris & M'lissa, to the rest of the trainees. To Doug Zell, Emily Mange, Geoff Watts. To Mike Phillips, everyone who competed in the US and World Barista Championships, and a bunch of other people I've never met. And to all of you, when we open up shop. Be sure to say hi.


09 April 2009


1.) Don't ever say you're excited to do your own design and writing work, ever, because fate will probably give you an opportunity, and it might not be so nice.
2.) Don't allow me to talk about any bikes I may own on this site, ever again. Because every time I do, I go ahead and lose it. Well. In this case it was a theft.
3.) Lock up your bike on the bus rack. Even just PRETEND to lock it, if you can't actually lock to the rack. Lock the wheel to the frame or something in order to keep crimes of opportunity to a minimum.
4.) Don't ride the bus with your bike, if you're me.
5.) But really, it's hard to know which is the real reason for the theft — writing about it or riding the bus. Riding, writing. Perhaps we shall never know.
6.) Read this flier. Post it elsewhere. Help me find my baby. I miss him so much.

Thanks, folks.