Competitor #7: Amber Sather (Intelligentsia Coffee and Tea, Chicago, Ill.)


Perhaps the NERBC’s most ominous (and positive, in a way that raises everyone’s game) incursion into the coffee scene is an entry from my own hometown roaster, Intelligentsia. Expanding their reach to New York City is a surprise to no one: and they’re doing it in the form of Amber Sather, who just moved to Brooklyn, and likes to remind me she once taught me at a barista class. (“Please don’t be so hard on our grinder” was her main advice…umm…sorry.)

Amber is a tough competitor and sat on the cheer lines at the Great Lakes Regionals so that she could wait and compete here in her new home state of New York. She’s up now — no crazy entourage, just an attitude of not settling for anything but first place. I realize the introduction of Intelli to NYC is a big deal but it doesn’t feel truly real (or weird) until Sather starts her performance with “My name is Amber and I work for Intelligentsia Coffee out of New York City.”

Continuing on she begins to talk about the great barista community in NYC and it’s great (and strange!) to hear her talking up our scene. She’s serving a blend of two pulp naturals, and prepares her espressos with a quiet focus. Intelli folks don’t seem to need to fill space with tons of unnecessary words. I notice her menus are miniature NYC subway maps with the drinks subtitled like train lines. Awesome. I guess she’s going for this whole New York City thing with full-on geeky love.

Her signature drink involves orange zest and caramel, and is served with a sea salt spoon. In the post-comp interview, Cho will ask her to compare the coffee culture of Chicago and NYC and I brace for what that answer might possibly be — she’s diplomatic and positive. Anyway, people should just follow her lead and move to New York (besides, everyone I know needs more staff.)

Competitor #8: Liz Siopes (Cafe Aiello, Lowell, Mass.)

Liz is sporting a tremendous amount of Zoka gear and her signature drink is called the “Sweet Heat”, a spicy espresso con panna. At 12:53 she’s done and calls time repeatedly until someone notices.

Competitor #9: Katie Carguilo (Counter Culture Coffee, Brooklyn, New York)

Though I’ve never seen Katie compete before, I have seen her trick a New York City bus driver into taking her on a customized ride to the bar we were headed to — so I had little doubt the girl was going to be fucking serious. Katie started her routine with upbeat beats — and beets! Holy hell, her signature drink is based on beets? Table centerpiece too. This is gonna be real.

Katie’s roasted beets with Indian spice, and is pureeing them with goats milk at the judge’s table. She strains this through a standard coffee filter, and heads off to make her capps.


Katie’s killing it. Even though I have finally admitted that I can’t enjoy listening to Joanna Newsom in any context, it’s alright on her soundtrack. Especially with all these beets everywhere!

Only if you look closely do you see Carguilo’s nerves —a little shaky hand there, a little glance sideways at her beets. The coffee she’s using today is Counter Culture’s Ethiopian Biloya Bear. That coffee hasn’t tasted good to me for awhile, but I’ve been on a beet bender for a few months now, so I’m still kind of psyched to see what’s going to happen here. (And keep in mind I kind of hate signature drinks.)

And so into tiny little cups Katie pours her shots and then steams up the beet-goat-milk and pours pink goat milk beet latte art hearts into the fucking shots. Totally crazy! I am severely impressed by her creativity and guts and the whole presentation. Katie cleans her station, and calls time at 15:00 exactly.

I grab a drink off the tray at the back, and for a minute I think: “Man, that’s weird! What is that taste? Oh. Beets!”

Could Cargiulo have been inspired by Soup Night? In any case: mmm. Beets.

3 Responses to “NERBC Day One Part Two: We got the beets.”

  1. caroline

    great coverage! thank you!

  2. dan griffin

    yeah!!!! go katie!!! i had roasted beets for dinner!!!!!

  3. AndyS

    Great coverage that can’t be beet. Thanks Liz!

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