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, 33º 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!

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