The Specialty Coffee Association held the United States Coffee Championships -the final in a series of three events- this weekend over three days in Kansas City, Missouri on March 15-17. The bill of events included competed the U.S. Barista Championship, U.S. Brewers Cup, U.S. Cup Tasters Championship, U.S. Coffee in Good Spirits Championship, and U.S. Roaster Championship. The U.S. competitions are currently produced by the Specialty Coffee Association.
Three dozen humans competed across these specialty coffee events illuminating a variety of ideas. Competitors spoke about coffees’ viability at origin and its dire need for successive generations to farm its terroir; scientific and technical processes that elucidate the flavors in coffee and milk – the fundamentals of a coffee beverage, including lactic washed processed coffee often paired with freeze distilled milk; stories from baristas who’ve travelled to origin and how those travels impacted their personal approach to their craft and professional role in the industry being more than just an ‘automated’ barista; the responsibility of using language to communication gap between barista and consumer through words code switching how the industry talks among itself and to the everyday consumer that’s increasingly willing to engage specialty coffee coffee.
On Day One, the audience heard espresso describe as suede by Ali Abderrahman of State Street Coffee/ La Reunion; heard Ben Vollmar of Flatlands Coffee blow minds when he discussed the magic of the future of specialty coffee including influencing and changing the diet of cows so that his milk and espresso drinks could be optimally consumed; Cris Mendoza of Saint Frank Coffee delivered fluffy angel cake cappuccinos inspire soft dreams, a Korean pear simple syrup created by Douglas Park of Joyride Coffee in Boston, perked up palates.
Baristas made sure that their playlist echoed the language and themes of their routines. Rachel Diaz of Flatlands Coffee talked about the importance of milk fat while playing ‘Sun Goes Down’ by Fat Night. Sam Schaefer of Mocking Bird Coffee played ‘Waterfalls ‘just as his luge waterfall cascaded into a drink before judges.
One word and process became an overwhelming trend this day—freeze. There were freeze dried strawberries (Joel Bigelow of Messenger Coffee and Sam Schaefer of Mockingbird Coffee); frozen demitasse spoons by Reef at The Coffee Movement, freeze distilled milk by Maxwell Mooney at Narrative Coffee and Rachel Apodaca at Messenger Coffee.
In sound, language and technique, Day One was an opportunity to witness twenty-five barista professionals compete as such. Here is a sonic cartography of the day’s routine. Press play.