Just got back to the Barista Mag offices in Portland, Ore., after a wonderful weekend in New York for Coffee Fest. I have to be honest: I wasn’t as excited as I usually am for Coffee Fest: we’ve just been slammed at work lately, putting the finishing touches on our 8th anniversary issue—April/May 2013—which we’ll be giving away at the Specialty Coffee Association of America show in Boston in mid April. And as we have since 2005, we are also creating the Official United States Barista Championship/U.S. Brewers Cup Event Program for the competitions in Boston (we’ll be posting this online for people to look through and use to follow along if they’re not in Boston, by the way).
Anyway, you get my drift—it’s been pretty crazy around here. Add to that Ken’s trip last week in Costa Rica with Cafe Imports on the celebratory coffee adventure for all 2012 Regional Barista Champs, the U.S. Champ, Katie, and the World Champ, Raul; his trip to Santa Cruz this weekend for the Southwest Regional being hosted by Verve; and my quick jaunt to Moscow, Russia, next weekend, and you might understand why we feel we’re working and living at warp speed these days.
So I was grumbling to myself as I boarded the plane for New York: dag nabbit, I could be getting so much work done if I could stay in the office this weekend, mumble, whine, mumble, whine. And I have to say, the snow that greeted me and my nagging head cold when I landed didn’t make me feel any better. The weather was formidable as I made my way to my hotel, and I sent a plea out on Facebook asking for recommendation of decent delivery dinner since there was no way I was going back out in the snow.
I was soon chowing down on delivery Chinese food, after which I hit the sheets and got a good night’s sleep before the show would start on Friday, March 8. And when day dawned, it was pretty nasty: stinging snow blew into my face as I trudged toward the Javits Center, where Coffee Fest would take place. I was so cold and wet when I finally got inside, I vowed not to go back out til it died down.
But then this amazing thing happened. The snow stopped, you ask? The sun came out? Nope. It started snowing even harder. What happened when I got into the Javits Center was that I saw all my friends. I saw the crowd of excited baristas at the Coffee Fest Latte Art Championship (which Barista Magazine sponsors, and which I have judged for the past seven years). I felt the electricity on the trade show floor as exhibitors put the finishing touches on their booths. And I was really, really excited about being there.
The Coffee Fest Latte Art Competition is one of the most popular coffee contests in the world due to its fast pace, the international competitors it draws, it’s large prize purse, and countless other reasons. I feel honored to judge it—it’s so much fun, and we see such phenomenal latte artists.
We judge that Friday, Saturday and Sunday mornings. In the afternoons, the trade show goes on, which is colorful and interesting. I always like wandering around saying hi to old friends and checking out the new products available on the market.
On Sunday, my fellow judges—Matt Milletto of the American Barista & Coffee School and Anna Gutierrez of Gourmet Source—and I judged the top competitors in a battle to the end. The last two standing were Kenny Smith and Cabell Tice. We determined the winner, but it wouldn’t be announced until the awards ceremony at the end of the day.
Coffee Fest has recently added some other competitions to the mix: the America’s Best Coffeehouse Competition and the America’s Best Espresso Competition. These debuted at Coffee Fest Seattle last September to great success. Judges Chris Deferio and Pete Licata have smoothed out what small wrinkles there were after that initial run, and for their second time out, the competitions were more successful than ever.
I’m already excited about all the fun we’ll have at Coffee Fest Chicago in June. All three of these competitions will be taking place at Coffee Fest Chicago, of course, so what are you waiting for? Sign up today!