USBC Finalist #4: Charlie Habegger, Intelligentsia, Chicago

Charlie in the zone.

Please welcome Charlie Habegger to the USBC finals stage—and Charlie is something pretty special. This is only his second time competing, and anyone who follows barista competitions, especially in the uber competitive United States knows that it’s a very rare thing for somwone who has only competed once before to make it to the finals of the USBC.

Charlie is Intelligentsia’s retail educator and green coffee buyer—that’s right, not a day-to-day barista. This gives him a very interesting perspective on coffee which will carry over into his barista competition performance.

Charlie in the zone.

Charlie in the zone.

As a green coffee buyer, Charlie says, “the closer I look at a coffee, the more I see. It’s a living thing.” Charlie’s whole approach to the barista competition performance is based on his work as a green buyer: he is using a technique called lot building to highlight the best flavors from this region in Colombia from which his coffee comes.

In a glass bowl, he has combined tangible representations of the flavors the judges can find in his coffee: blackberry for the aromatics, lemon and white chocolate for the acidity and bitterness, vanilla bean for the body, and basil for the espresso’s crisp finish.

The bowl with the ingredients.

The bowl with the ingredients.

In his cappuccinos, Charlie tells the judges they will find the flavors of vanilla custard and lemon cookie. “I tend to think of cappuccinos as a whole drink. You’re not evaluating the espresso by itself, but the whole experience.” He takes a slab of a plate from each of the judges place settings, revealing bowls full of these ingredients that he earlier introduced. He tells the judges he will be picking from those bowls to use the ingredients in the signature drink.

Judge place setting, with the bowls of ingredients inside.

Judge place setting, with the bowls of ingredients inside.

He adds blackberry jam—which he says he wants for viscosity—to each glass, then takes the glasses to the espresso machine to pull shots on top of them.

Charlie's coworker (and 2006 USBC Champ) Matt Riddle is here cheering Charlie on in spirit.

Charlie’s coworker (and 2006 USBC Champ) Matt Riddle is here cheering Charlie on in spirit.

Great job, Charlie!

 

FINAL TIME: 15.20

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.