Article and photos by Kate Beard
This week, the entire coffee world—from producers to roasters to baristas to machine-makers to just-plain-caffeine-addicts—have descended upon the resort town of Rimini, Italy. Sitting at the eastern end of the ancient road Via Emilia, this one-time important Roman city offers sea, sun, sand, and an impressive selection of gelato (obviously the most important bit). One could argue that though all roads normally lead to Rome, one of the Roman roads is leading everyone to Rimini. And for good reason, too! Let’s take a look at some of the things that have been happening in bellissimo Rimini the past two days.
Things started very early for the many people working with World Coffee Events, whose shuttle departed bright and early at 6:30 am to bring them to the convention center for preparation and calibration.
As the judges calmly prepared out front, backstage was a flurry of activity. Baristas, their entourages, their coaches, and the WCE volunteers all got down to business. People were running through routines, loading carts, polishing equipment, tasting espressos, steaming milk, and giving feedback and support right up until the last minute.
As the competition began, things began to heat up onstage and off—both literally and figuratively. Despite the inherent tension competitions bring, there were smiles all around.
Supporters waved flags and held up signs for their country’s competitor; after their performances, some baristas ran to the stands to receive congratulations from their friends, family, and fans.
After an exhaustive day of competition, almost everyone was ready to cut loose on the beach. Thank goodness then that La Marzocco has rented out Turquoise Beach Club, and is throwing a party every night this week! On Monday, the World Aeropress Championships were held there as the sun began to set. With drinks flowing from the bar and a surfeit of neon yellow Aerobies decorating peoples’ heads, the 27 hopeful baristas began to press with all their might. MCs Ben Kaminsky and Tim Varney offered colorful commentary and playful repartee throughout.
From 27 the field was narrowed to the final 3: Jeff Verellen from Belgium (last year’s world Aeropress champion); Martin Karabiňoš of Slovakia; and Shuichi Sasaki of Japan.
The final round commenced and spectators peered on intently—almost as intently as the baristas were brewing their coffees.
The trio of judges (James Hoffman, Tim Wendelboe, and Tim Williams/Styles) sipped and slurped for a while. Tensions mounted as they deliberated over which brew was the best. Finally it was time to pick one…
…but the vote was far from unanimous. They all pick a different cup, so Tim Varney and his impeccable taste buds are brought in to break the tie.
Standing upon the podiums like Roman gods, the three finalists waited to hear who would be taking home the golden Aeropress. Jeff Verellen took third place, Martin Karabiňoš came second, and Shuichi Sasaki came away victorious.
After the competition, there was no other course of action except to dance, drink, throw Aerobies, and enjoy the beautiful beach setting provided by La Marzocco
And dance we did, until the sun was long gone and the ice ran out at the bar. Eventually the speakers had to be turned off, so everyone wandered off down the spiaggia in search of pizza, piadinas, and gelato, ready for a few hours sleep before doing it all again the next day.