Second Day of US Coffee Championships: More People, Energy, and, yes, Coffee
The second day of this year’s US Coffee Championships was a lot more hopping with people, energy, and competitions than the previous day. And, more importantly, there was more coffee, too! Having taken place at the Long Beach Arena three weeks ago, the US Coffee Championships was a production of the Specialty Coffee Association of America and the Barista Guild of America.
Injecting energy, people, noise, and excitement from the previous day were three featured competitions. The biggest competition going on and that which garnered the most attention was the Barista Competition. Located at the opposite end of the Long Beach Arena from the entrance, one could not help but notice and even be drawn to the competition.
The set-up of the Barista Competition vaguely reminded of a smaller version of Kitchen Stadium, with three stands for baristas to work their craft (although only one barista competed at a time), with a panel of a few judges sitting and others watching, along with cameramen encircling (both those with media credentials and those as part of those for screens for audience and livestreaming). Rising up on opposite sides of the area where the action was taking place were twin sets of bleachers. It was a very serious set-up, with further computers to monitor the livefeed of the competition. Also, after each barista competed, they were interviewed on-camera. It was certainly a well-produced event, showcasing the baristas’ skills, not only with their coffee skills, but also in their description of the beans, the process, and more (e.g. I saw one competitor (Nora Brady) utilizing some vapor-infusing!).
While the Barista Competition was exciting, my favorite addition was the Roasters Choice competition, where fifteen competitors were all given the same bean (from Peru) and they roasted them. While the competition aspect of the Roasters Choice was for attendees to cast a vote for their favorite roast, it was really fantastic to be able to experience a head-to-head (or cup-to-cup?) comparison/contrast of coffee. I especially enjoyed trying to discern differences between how they were roasted and especially to detect how they were different.
Of course, I enjoyed getting to have unlimited coffee – indeed, one could get their caffeine fix entirely just from this coffee (despite the small cups provided to attendees, one could easily drink a lot of this coffee(!)). A fascinating thing occurred while consuming this coffee – with there being no sweetener of any sort available, I was left up to consuming the coffee unsweetened: something I had never done before. And I survived. And I liked it. In fact, perhaps it was the atmosphere, the mood, or simply the coffee, but it was good! Through this process, it also confirmed my preference for less roasting of coffee beans – I did not enjoy the coffee that had been roasted more than the others.
Just as with the day before, the Baristas Guild of America Café was set up in the middle of the Long Beach Arena with espressos, macchiatos, and cappuccinos available. I started off with a single-shot espresso from the Madcap Coffee Company using beans from La Perla, Ecuador, which I found to be somewhat tangy and light (and, of course, bitter) (the tasting notes described it as “Crisp, floral, lime”). I also had a single-shot espresso from Ozo Coffee Co. using Colombia Las Mingas – I found it to be lighter and fruitier than the previous one as well as light and crisp (the tasting notes described it as “Honey, strawberry, and cantaloupe introduce a caramel sweetness, balancing with a clean, floral finish”). After those two trips to the Baristas Guild of America Café, I stopped returning for two reasons: 1) as opposed to the previous day, there were actually lines to get the coffee there, since there were significantly more people there and 2) I discovered the Roasters Choice competition and enjoyed that coffee better than the very bitter espressos (I had no plans to drink either macchiatos nor cappuccinos).
The other new competition on Friday was the Latte Art Competition, which was off to a side of the Long Beach Arena, where competitors designed art for lattes, with a livefeed available to be seen on a screen for attendees to be able to see what the barista was doing artistically.
With the increased amount of competitions, as well as the excitement of the Barista Championships, the second day of the 2015 US Coffee Championships felt like a more happening place than the day before, especially with more people there…and more coffee.