NATIONAL CHAMPION OF PUERTO RICO
Edwin is an engaging guy right off the bat, but unfortunately, hes off to a rocky start: seems he forgot to unload a bunch of equipment from his cart during his set-up time, so when he approaches the judges’ table at the beginning of his performance, he looks at the table and sees that there are no water glasses. He quickly realizes he has also forgotten his pitchers. According to the rules, he must go backstage himself to retrieve any forgotten items, so he loses some time running back a total of three times for equipment. But when he returns, hes applauded by the audience for his ability to shake it off and get back on task. His cappuccinos come out nicely, and his signature drink sounds great: corriander, cardomom, and here comes another whipper. His presentation is lovely: a round serving tray with holders for each of five cups. One for the head judge, a nice touch. Congratulations, Edwin!
NATIONAL CHAMPION OF SLOVAKIA
Slovakia’s champion is at once relaxed as he steps on stage—I’m digging his yellow set up, too. For his signature drink he puts something very chunky looking into his pitchers and whips it all together, and the signature drinks come ut looking delicious. He doesn’t seem too happy with the rush at the end — it seems he didn’t have as much time as he would have liked to put the finishing touches on his drink, but the crowd loves him. Bravo, Marian!
NATIONAL CHAMPION OF TAIWAN
Kuo-Chuan is off to a great start, with a spotless presentation area, some very nice looking espressos and a friendly, engaging demeanor. As is the trend this year (and last) he’s got almost a full kitchen set-up on stage, several saucepans and blinding stainless steel. Wow, the latte art on his caps is lovely. Nice work, Kuo-Chuan. I’m having a little trouble understanding his accent — he’s got chamomile in his drink, I got that much — but if we’re evaluating his performance based on enthusiasm, he’s winning big points. Ah, here comes the whipper! He puts a cake cover type thing on top of his sig drink cups, and when serving the judges, he whips it off and has the judges lean in to catch some of the fragrance. Kuo-Chuan, it was a pleasure to watch you!
NATIONAL CHAMPION OF UGANDA
If you read the April-May 2008 issue of Barista Magazine, you might recall Shane Devereaux’s account of the time he spent in East Africa, which ended with his experience at the first ever Ugandan Barista Champion. For Shane, it was an emotional experience; the level of passion for coffee was so high, but the baristas had a lot to learn. Now, just a few months later, Peter takes the stage with the confidence of a seasoned pro. He’s so engaging. I love his apron—it has a screenprinted gorilla on it. He’s using a 100-percent Ugandan coffee– both arabica and robusta– and he’s quick to explain to the judges coffee’s rich history not only in Uganda but in Africa in general. His main point is that coffee brings people together in positive ways in Uganda. It’s such an uplifting presentation. His drinks are truly impressive — lovely hearts on his cappuccinos and a very sophisticated looking signature drink. Peter, you’ve done your country– and the WBC — proud.
NATIONAL CHAMPION OF MEXICO
SALVADOR BENITEZ ESPINOSA
Chava! This is THE Mexican barista champ. Chava is well loved the world over, and he takes his craft very seriously. He has worked with some of the best baristas and trainers to perfect his performance, including Fritz Storm, Jose Arreola and Arturo Hernandez. And he was amazing as the champ in Tokyo last year. Now he’s back and even more prepped, so we’re ready to see him rock the show. His cappuccinos are absolutely stunning, some of the best we’ve seen all competition. His signature drinks begin with a slushy looking base made of dates, nuts, citrus, and sweet cream, and his espresso comes on top. He goes over time but not enough to be disqualified. Chava, professional that he is, simply refuses to sacrifice the quality of his drink for the sake of time. Bravo, Chava. A job done exceptionally well.
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