USBC Finalist #5: Sam Lewontin, Everyman Espresso, NYC

Sam Lewontin

Sam Lewonski is affectionately known as “the other Sam” at Everyman Espresso in New York. That’s because he and his boss, Sam Penix, are essentially attached at the hip. The two friends support each other in everything to do. It’s hard to imagine Everyman without either of them.

This is the case this weekend here in Boston, as Sam Lewonski—Northeast Regional Barista Champion—worked his way successfully from the semifinal round to the finals: his friend Sam was front and center every step of the way to help Sam L. any way he could.

And it’s not just the Sams: the Everyman folks are a family—in fact, the lots of them drove from New York to Boston last night in order to be here to support Sam in the USBC finals today. There is a virtual mob in front of Sam’s espresso station, both Everyman Espresso staffers and staff from Counter Culture Coffee, which supplies Everyman Espresso.

The thick crowd of Sam lovers gathered to watch USBC finalist #5, Sam Lewontin

The thick crowd of Sam lovers gathered to watch USBC finalist #5, Sam Lewontin

Sam is using a washed coffee from Burundi. He begins his performance by asking the judges to pick up some envelopes he has set out on the table at their place settings. Each envelope contains the name of one of the flavors he thinks they will find in the coffee. He asks them to choose one of those envelopes at random, pull out the flavor they think will be present, and set it on the table in front of them. We’ll come back to those envelopes in a moment.

The envelope please...

The envelope please…

He tells his judges that his coffee is ecopulped, which has the effect of balancing the acidity and amplifying the sweetness in the cup. He tells them they will taste ginger and cocoa in the espresso, along with orange and caramel and ginger. He says the mouthfeel will be silky. But then he steps back and says that instead of simply telling them what they’ll taste, he’s going to take it to another level and play up those qualities. He says, “This espresso will tell you its own story without any additional assistance from me.”

Sam engaging with his judges.

Sam engaging with his judges.

I’m in love with the way he presented his signature drink. He said he wanted to turn all the flavors in the coffee on their ears. He said the aroma of the espresso was spicy, so he wanted to make it sweet. He said the acidity of the espresso was apple, so he wanted to make it orange. He said the sweetness of the coffee was fruit and so he decided to make it caramel. Finally, he said the finish of the coffee is sweet, so he decided to make it spicy.

Sam's performance was interactive and lively from start to finish.

Sam’s performance was interactive and lively from start to finish.

Here’s how he did it: he went back to front—to turn the sweet to spice, he misted the glasses with a ginger spritz. To turn the sweetness from fruity to caramel, he added a handcrafted caramel to each glass. To change the acidity from apple to citrus, he added a 5% citric acid solution. Finally, to change the aroma from a spice to a citric, he rimmed each glass with a thick slice of orange peel, “so you can smell that aroma but you don’t necessarily taste it in the cup.”

It's impossible not to like Sam... this guy is as friendly as they come.

It’s impossible not to like Sam… this guy is as friendly as they come.

Sam’s effort in his barista performance was to “give you a glimpse into the coffee as an epiphany.” With his energy, his passion, his talent, and his humility, Sam brought it in the biggest of ways to the USBC finals stage today. Bravo, Sam.

At the end of Sam's performance, he said he's never had as much fun with his competition as he did today.

At the end of Sam’s performance, he said he’s never had as much fun with his competition as he did today.

FINAL TIME: 14.55

 

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.