Back from Cali

What a freakin blast the last six days were. I spent them in Berkeley, Calif., my hometown and where my parents, Steve and Leanne, still live. I was there for two reasons: to attend and emcee the SCAA’s Western Regional Barista Competition, and to hang with my folks for two days after the competition. It was a great few days in beautiful Berkeley.
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The stars of the weekend were the whopping 35 barista competitors who showed up for the three-day event held at the Gaia Center in Berkeley and generously hosted by Pacific Bay Coffee. Lindsay and Brett from Zoka competed out-of-region for the practice before the United States Barista Championship takes place in May in Minneapolis, but the other 33 baristas all had their sights set on doing justice to their coffee. I was frankly pretty blown away by the skill level of these baristas, many of whom had never competed before. It was a lot of work for a lot of really amazing judges to pare it down to the final six:

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From left to right: Kyle Glanville of Intelligentsia L.A.; Ryan Willbur of Intelligentsia L.A.; Chris Baca of Ritual Coffee Roasters in San Francisco; Heather Perry of the Coffee Klatch in San Dimas; and Nick Griffith of Intelligentsia in L.A. Kneeling in front and looking hella fly is Drew Cattlin from Ritual in San Francisco (a first-time competitor, folks). Seriously, any of these guys could be finalists in the USBC — that’s how high the skill level was — atypical for a regional.

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I’d been getting sicker and sicker over the three days, and by Sunday, I was in full blown mucus mode. I hate the complain because Ms. Perry had walking pneumonia and she still turned out a kick ass performance. But I never claimed to be as tough as Heather. While I was out having the one beer that made me tip the scales on sick versus healthy, my dad posted about the finals. He and my mom attended and had a total blast. You can read his blog post here. Thanks, Dad!

One last shout out about the Western Regional: more than $3000 was raised for Bikes to Rwanda! Thanks also to Terry Z. for creating some of the coolest trophies we’ve EVER had at a barista competition. This is the one for Baristas for Bikes, an offshoot of Bikes to Rwanda.

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So Monday and Tuesday were sort of hazy for me, being sick and all. But not too sick to go to Chez Panisse with my parents! Joop! It was an awesome feast.

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Now I’m back in Portland in Barista Magazine’s beautiful new office catching up on emails. One that made me smile in particular today was from David Schomer of the esteemed Vivace in Seattle. David’s always sending me his baristas’ pours, and we both found this one particularly clever. It was poured by Christopher “Nicely” Alameda.

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Thanks, David!

Last but not least piece of news I have to share with you: Barista Magazine’s third anniversary issue is at the printers! Can you believe we’re three years old? I’m so excited and humbled by it. Your mags won’t hit your mailboxes for a while still, but we sure hope you’ll like them when they do. We wouldn’t be anywhere without your support, your ideas and your unwavering sense of community. We heart you, Barista Mag readers.

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