USBC 2008 Semifinals Part One

Natasha Lebedev (Zoka Coffee, Seattle, WA) opens, once again staunchly defending the acidity of much-maligned vinegar. She’s good. I’m hungry.

Crowd favorite Lem Butler (Counter Culture Coffee, Durham, NC) hits second with an easygoing and positive attitude. His signature drink includes a Fatima Brazil and Dolok Sangul — the latter roasted “longer than usual” (which for CCC is truly saying something) to up sweetness. Lem’s graceful good attitude will serve him well as he begins his routine by preparing his signature drinks at the judges’ table — only to have his honey squirter crumple, the lid fall off, and honey to go all kinds of places it shouldn’t.

We’re only a couple minutes in and this seems like total disaster — but Lem acknowledges things can go wrong, especially in a cafe — and you simply try again. He returns to the signature drinks, giving us the breakdown of each component (cucumber, lemon juice, ginger) by gram weight! Though visibly concerned about the time loss time and shaken by the early meltdown, Butler simply gathers himself and just awesomely pulls it together.

Lem has a really great stage manner. And he really moves when he distributes. In fact he almost moved into the ice machine. And Pele.

Cappucino pours aren’t well-defined, but Lem’s working on borrowed time now. Espresso come out last and the clock is counting down fast. Lem’s custom espresso blend, Twin Cities Express, is so-named because it won him the Southeast regional competition — thus gaining him an express trip to the semifinials here in the Twin Cities today. Awesome.

Lem serves his shots and calls time at something like 14:55. Amazing. Best recovery ever? Some think so.

Amber Sather (Supercompetitors Coffee & Tea, Inc, Brooklyn, NY) is polished but nervous. Here comes a frustrating part of being a photographer: you’re standing on the other side of a competitor’s cappuccino cups with a big drip on one of them. And she doesn’t notice. Augh! I think Amber does really well but I don’t think this was her strongest showing — we shall see. Go Brooklyn!

Heather Perry (Coffee Klatch, San Dimas, CA) rolls into town next. Heather is talking faster than yesterday! It’s giving me palpatations.

Heather’s competition clock is OUT. OFF. Yikes. Luckily she can roll with it. She’s an efficient worker — clean and attentive. And talks very fast. Very very fast.

The Starpower competition is still going strong down the competition hallway. Sequins are starting to cover the ladies’ room floor.

Kyle Glanville (Intelligentsia Coffee, Los Angeles, CA) switches up his “what was once maple…” and describes it instead as like a Werther’s original. His pours look amazing, and he really talks right to the judges. The lumpy stuff in his signature drink that I saw yesterday and didn’t know what they were are macadamia nuts.

I sneak out looking for food and am waylaid by both scheduling and Andrew Barnett making a truly brutal stream of food puns. (Me: “I might get a banana.” Andrew: “That has appeal.”) Deferio is walking in the woods again. And I gotta stop typing in these notes and watch Baca. Sorry for the time delay. I blame the online live chat and Reg Barber’s flickr stream. More in a couple competitors.

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