Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Fifteen Shots Later, Part 2: Java Enabled Judges the Midwest Regional Barista Competition

Posted By on Wed, Nov 11, 2009 at 6:15 PM

Page 2 of 2

As a judge, I was lucky enough to try Marquard's signature drink Saturday before the finals. The bright, tart flavors in the espresso paired surprisingly well with the apple cider. While the caramel wasn't as present as I thought it might be, the pairing was a playful success. Other judges must have agreed: Marquard took first place and secured a spot in the national semi-finals this April in Anaheim, California.

click to enlarge Mike Marquard of Kaldi's Coffee - PHOTO COURTESY KALDI'S COFFEE
  • Photo courtesy Kaldi's Coffee
  • Mike Marquard of Kaldi's Coffee
One of the fan favorites, Marquard was a finalist last year and went on to place sixth at nationals. When asked what signature drink he would prepare for nationals, he said that he wasn't sure but was inspired by a recent trip to Colombia: "I'm thinking about doing some thing like, 'What side of the street do you live on?' We recently went to a small town in Colombia named Monserrate and the coffee grown in the same town but on opposite sides of the street had a completely different flavor."

It was a joke between the judges that unless the barista mentioned how "passionate" they were about coffee, they'd never get a good score. Passion sounds like a one-dimensional response to how you feel about something, but after reviewing the weekend in my mind, there's really no other way to describe it. The crowd at the competition was a mix of industry personalities -- the gregarious Nuova Simonelli representative's Italian accent was endearingly close to the Count's from Sesame Street -- coffee enthusiasts, barista supporters and even a coffee farm from El Salvador. A trio of coffee Smurfs (giddy volunteers donning the event's blue t-shirt) waited behind the curtains for the signal to clear discarded espresso and cappuccino cups.

Specialty coffee is a passionate industry. The excitement, friendship and dedication I saw were inspiring. Events like this help bring all of us closer to that perfect cup of coffee.

Zach Dyer is a writer living in Saint Louis. He did his thesis research on coffee farmers in Southern Mexico. Since then, he has visited coffee plantations in Costa Rica and Mexico as well as roasters and cafés across the U.S. He blogs about coffee every Wednesday.

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