Two weeks ago, June 28, 29 and 30, I competed in the Ultimate Barista Challenge. The competition is set up kinda “Iron Chef” style, with two baristas competing at one time across from each other. There is a qualifying round for each of four categories: Latte Art, Best of Brew, Espresso Frappe, and Espresso Cocktail. The winner of each one of these categories is given the opportunity to challenge the “Ultimate Barista” of that category. If you happen to “vanquish” the Ultimate Barista, you enter into the ranks of Ultimate Barista, and get to protect your title at any of the various UBC events. There is also a fifth category, Best Overall Points. All-in-all, the whole experience is pretty dang cool. All the baristi there are rooting for and supporting each other, even though we’re competing against one another. The whole point of the competition is to promote the specialty coffee industry, and to educate folks about what we do as coffee artists. Houston made a great showing this year, taking four of the five categories. David Bueher, owner of Tuscany Coffee, won the qualifying round for Espresso Cocktail, and went on to defeat Ultimate Barista Heather Perry with his drink named “Occum’s Razor”. Yours truly went home with three categories in the bag. I won qualifying rounds for Best of Brew (with Ethiopia Yergacheffe Idido Misty Valley) and Espresso Frappe, and also beat out Ultimate Barista Lorenzo Perkins in the frappe category (Who, btw, is a gentleman, a scholar, and somone I not only look up to as a kick-ass barista, but a man of men. He works at Cafe’ Medici in Austin. Go visit him sometime), and have stepped into the position of an Ultimate Barista. Very, very cool. I also took home the Best Overall Points Medallion. So then, let it be known that we in H-town have stepped up our game, and I’ll be very excited to see more baristi from Houston at these kinds of competitions.
Sherri and Danny Johns, organizers of the UBC, put out a press release to several specialty coffee mags. Here it is:
In the Lone Star State Espresso ‘shots’ are fired as Baristi battle it out at the 2nd Annual Ultimate Barista Challenge® Americas at the Southwest Foodservice Expo in Dallas!
Portland, Oregon, USA – It was tamper to tamper, a no holds barred barista competition where dueling Baristi (someone who expertly prepares coffee and espresso drinks) brewed their best at the Ultimate Barista Challenge held June 28th – 30th at the Southwest Foodservice Expo. The UBC is an action packed competition where Baristi, compete in a dueling stage of identical espresso stations to shake their espresso cocktails, prepare beautiful caffe latte art, blend espresso frappe, and brew the best they have. Each Barista has a tight 5 or 10 minutes to prepare drinks in each category and serve the panel of astute professional tasting judges.
Ultimate Barista Heather Perry says, “Dallas was the most challenging UBC thus far. The talent went above and beyond expectations and really thought out of the box.” Mary Yanes, CEM, Director of Expo Operations and Texas Restaurant Association “We are delighted the UBC is featured annually at the TRA. The UBC adds an extra dimension to the show floor that exhibitors and attendees alike rave about. It is a professionally managed coffee competition program that gets better every year.”
The certified UBC Dallas Judges included a Food writer and critic, a Director of the Culinary School of Fort Worth, Scientist and former coffee roaster, Members of the TCA (Texas Chefs Association), Coffee Specialists, Tasting and Flavorologist, and Barista Trainers. In the end, this diverse group agreed who would be “the Ultimate Barista” in each category.
In Best of Brew Challenge, Ultimate Barista USA Heather Perry, of Klatch Coffee defeated Finalist Sean Marshall, of Fusion Beans / Catalina Coffee with her Organic Ethiopian Brew Wondo Bonko. UBC Producer/Head Judge, Sherri Johns commented, “Intense fruit, natural dry process with complexity and dimension in the cup.” The drip brew coffee was “Plated” and served to tasting judges with accoutrements of lime, strawberry, peach, mango, a chocolate medallion with a small porcelain sniffer of the freshly ground coffee. Barista Sean commented, “It was an honor to be on the same stage with Heather” “I am excited where the UBC is headed and already planning for next year in Houston.”
Ultimate Barista Americas Lorenzo Perkins of Caffe Medici, Austin, just back a victorious UBC Showdown in Beijing, China, saw victory as qualifying winner in Latte Art Challenge but was trumped in the Championship round by Ultimate Barista Heather Perry. In the Espresso Cocktail Challenge, newcomer David Buehrer of Tuscany Coffee / Coffee Street in Houston prepared an intoxicating cocktail featuring his namesake espresso Dairymaid. His “Occam’s Razor” featured Ancho Tequila, Cream de Cocoa, heavy cream, and “six drops of chili tincture” garnished with mulled mint wowed the judges to award David Ultimate Barista Champion status. David was aligned as “an imaginative chef of coffee on this round”, commented one Judge.
Newly crowned Ultimate Barista Sean Marshall won the Espresso Frappe Challenge Championship with his impressive blended drink with berry compote and fresh roasted espresso garnished with a skewer of colorful fresh berries and rimmed with chocolate,. As Ultimate Barista, Sean is eligible represent the UBC at other national and international events. Sean Marshall garnered the most medallions in this UBC. Two for finalist rounds in Brewing and Frappe, the Espresso Frappe Championship and finally the beaming Sean was presented with the Medallion “Best of Show” for highest over all points.
Ultimate Barista USA Heather Perry, awed audience members using Café Essentials. Boyd Coffee, Astoria Plus 4 You Espresso Machines and other sponsors products and equipment were featured during the UBC Demonstrations! Last year’s UBC Americas Champion Clancy Rose of Cuvee Coffee in Spicewood, Texas impressed the audience between challenges with his Latte Art flair. Master of Ceremonies / UBC Coordinator Danny Johns revved up the crowds, “This has been the best UBC Americas yet. Texas Barista showmanship is amazing. This is the future of Coffee!”
For more pictures of the UBC Dallas 2009, go to my Flickr site at http://www.flickr.com/photos/southsideespresso/. Look under the “UBC Dallas 2009″ tab on the righthand side.
Sean Marshall, New Ultimate Barista =)