United States, Argentina, Estonia

#44: BARISTA CHAMPION OF THE UNITED STATES—MICHAEL PHILLIPS

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Oh, Mike Phillips—he’s just one of the nicest, most genuine guys I know. By his own admission, he was an unlikely winner of the United States Barista Championship—he’s a workhorse, running a busy cafe in Chicago, competing when he can, and always playing with coffee from his company, Intelligentsia. But the way I see it, he’s a pretty phenomenal competitor. He’s changed up his coffee since the USBC—now he’s using a Rwandan he knows intimately. But he’s still serving it five different ways, breaking coffee down and examining it in a way I haven’t ever seen before on stage. He keeps describing his coffee as “articulate”—that terrific. Great descriptor for a washed coffee like this. He increases and decreases his grind and dose with each flight in order to highlight specifics of the espresso and cappuccino. He tells the judges that his signature drink is actually an exercise he uses in his shop to train baristas—this way of deconstructing a shot of espresso and using ingredients—he uses muscavado sugar, sweet dark chocolate, roasted almonds, sea salt, and cream—to highlight the elements at work in the segments of espresso. Wonderful job, Mike—you’re a pro!
#45: BARISTA CHAMPION OF ARGENTINA—JORGE AGUSTIN QUIROGA

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Before I begin, please forgive any oversights. Jorge spoke Spanish on stage, and though Jose Arreola translated some of it, some was lost. Onward: Jorge is completey at ease behind the Aurelia—he’s obviously practiced hard for this. He tells the judges that his coffee is a blend of Brazilian, Colombian and African coffees. He says the Brazilian brings a nice almond taste, with citrics coming from the Colombian, working together to create a nice, thick body. He heats chocolate in a bowl on a burner to melt it and begins signature drink work. To highlight the citrics in the Colombian, Jorge has created an orange reduction, and he layers this with the chocolate at the bottom of each of four martini glasses. He brings these glasses to the table, and then makes his espressos. He brings the espressos right to the table to finish his drinks, pouring the espressos into each glass, and then topping them with cream. It’s a beautiful drink. Great job, Jorge!

#46: BARISTA CHAMPION OF ESTONIA—URMET LAHT

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Estonia has come a long way in barista excellence, and they’re right up there now with the best of the world. I’m sure the success of the European Team Barista Challenge hasn’t hurt anything—and Estonia’s a big part of that competition. Urmet is so proud of his country, and his performance is a love letter back home. In his cappuccinos, he tells the judges they will experience a creamy marzipan taste and the essence of tender peaches. I’ll focus on his signature drink because that’s how it came across best: a traditional food from Estonia inspired this interesting drink. The food is a blend of rye, wheat, barley, and peas, so Urmet has brought these ingredients together, cooked them in salty water, dried them, and ground them up for the drink. To this, he brings cherry yogurt and cream, to emphasize the cherry notes of his coffee. It’s incredibly creative. Great showing, Urmet.

About the Author

Sarah

Sarah Allen is co-founder and editor of Barista Magazine, the international trade magazine for coffee professionals. A passionate advocate for baristas, quality, and the coffee community, Sarah has traveled widely to research stories, interact with readers, and present on a variety of topics affecting specialty coffee. She also loves animals, swimming, ice cream, and living in Portland, Oregon.