USBC Finalist #1: Charles Babinski, G&B, Los Angeles

Charles at the beginning of his performance, greeting the judges.

Does this guy look familiar? He should; he won second place at the USBC last year. Charles traveled to the World Barista Championship in Vienna last June to cheer on not only his friend, US Champ Katie Carguilo, but his other international barista champion friends. Indeed, Charles has been a part of the fabric of the international barista community for years, and within that,he has learned from as well as taught his peers about specialty coffee and excellence in barista skills.

Charles worked for Intelligentsia Coffee for years, where he met other barista competition heavyweights like 2010 WBC Champ, Michael Phillips, with whom he currently shares a house in L.A., and 2008 USBC Champ Kyle Glanville, with whom he shares an entire business in L.A.: Kyle is the G, Charles the B, in G&B Coffee, one of the most talked about new cafes in Southern California.

This weekend in Boston, Charles participated not only in the USBC, but also the U.S. Brewers Cup (where he entered as the Southwest Regional Brewers Cup Champ); the U.S. Cup Tasters Championship; and the U.S. Latte Art Exhibition, in which he placed second at yesterday’s awards ceremony.

Truly Charles is one of the favorites among the audience members in today’s USBC Finals.

Charles at the beginning of his performance, greeting the judges.

Charles at the beginning of his performance, greeting the judges.

Charles begins by defining espresso, but then says he’d rather view espresso as something beautiful to drink, simply put. His espresso—from roaster 49th Parallel in Vancouver, B.C.—will impart the flavors of raisin, brown sugar, and salted caramel.

Charles always gives lovely customer service, and today is no different: he not only greets and is friendly with his judges, but he pours his latte art on cappuccinos while chatting individually with each judge.

Charles is known for his engaging customer service.

Charles is known for his engaging customer service.

While pouring his second set of drinks, he starts telling the judges about G&B: how important both customer service and quality, simple drinks are to him and Kyle.

Charles uses some very straightforward visual aids to represent the flavor notes in his coffee: blackberry, sugarcane, and honey. They are boxes with bright colors to represent the flavors. He moves the boxes around as he explains how cooling down, or separating the flavors, gives the coffee a completely different dimension from how it tastes hot.

Charles visual aids

Charles visual aids

Charles cools his coffee to transform the blackberry acidity to blackberry sweetness. He complements it with Gesho, an African plant with a flavor similar to mild root beer. Sweetened with orange blossom honey. For this part of the signature drink, Charles serves the drinks in small ceramic bowls.

Overview of Charles' performance area.

Overview of Charles’ performance area.

Then Charles starts working with  pomegranate juice, which he says he uses because uses the acidity in pomegranate is simple, not so complex that it will muddy the acidity from the blackberry. He also serves sparkling water in tall glasses to give a focused textural element to the presentation.

Charles Babinski is nothing if not focused and controlled.

Charles Babinski is nothing if not focused and controlled.

Of these two sig drink courses, he says one is intense, cool, a classic idea of how you use espresso flavor; the other is aromatic, complex, a little mellower, this is espresso flavor as a canvas.

Very nicely done, Charles!

FINAL TIME: 14.53

 

 

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.