glrbc day two: where are my goddamn horse bananas?
by saturday morning the fog has melted back into rain, not so much ideal for a leisurely stroll down the lakefront. i grab some breakfast with doug p. and we head to discovery world, pretty crowded today.
internet presence chris demarse from alliance world coffees in muncie, in begins his performance by positioning coffee as a metaphor for marriage. the complementary relationships of coffees within a blend bringing out the best in each other, the deep romantic and consensual love between beans, etc. maybe i’m reading too much into that… chris used two ethiopian coffees, a washed and a natural, and for his signature drink prepared espressos with earl grey cream, star thistle honey, and blackberry juice.
segways occasionally ferry people past on the competition floor. this seems to be a GLRBC milwaukee theme. i never see them anywhere else. also: one of the sweetest things you will see at a barista competition is friends getting more nervous for their friends’ competition routines than their own. it’s an easy way to displace your own anxiety, i guess, but watching the connection between people who train together is really something… as is, you know… the barista-roaster relationship…
moving two stations over, the discovery world is really quite crowded now for scott lucey of milwaukee‘s own alterra, who is definitely creating both a fashion splash and a fire hazard in his marcus boni tribute gingham shirt and salmon-toned linen tie. whereas scott’s competifriend phillips seems to strive to make his competition routines harder and harder, lucey strives to take something he’s been successful with before and push it to an even higher level, knocking nelson melo’s beautiful colombian coffees out of the park once and for all. this year his roastery has access to more strains than in the past, and the melo is a 50/50 caturra and bourbon mix, promising strawberry, sour cherry, grape, cola, fig and date, with a pleasing acidity and sweet white wine finish. BEHOLD! Your Espresso! announces sL to the judges, though he seems otherwise a little more…restrained…than usual. scott builds his presentation around the idea of “servant leadership”: the humble guidance of organizations or interests by taking care of the needs of those around them and below them on the chain. representing and celebrating coffees and advocating for fairer, improved processes all along the lines of production, from the farm to the cafe floor, is — beyond the prestige of double-fisting those GLRBC trophies — theoretically why we are all really here.
scott finishes his routine with a 2010 version of a drink you may have seen before…liquid swords is reborn as esuardos liquidos, slightly reproportioned and almost sealed with coffee blossom honey…but not before time runs out and scott has to skip the honey. “sorry for being a tease”, he says.
speaking of really something, it looks like current US barista champion mike phillips from intelligentsia coffee and tea has travelled heavy today. mike’s setup includes two grinders…and a third hopper. this guy’s got some kind of cojones, and it turns out they’re made of costa rican coffee…one cojone caturra and one cojone catuai. this coffee arrived oh so recently in chicago — just two months off of the patio — making it ridiculously current, seasonal, a la mode etc. he displays green coffee on the judges’ table with complementary ingredients; green grape for the washed, medjool dates for the honey processed, and rhubarb and ginger (currently cooking up an aromatic hurricane on the side burner) for the full natural.
but why three hoppers? well, because mikey’s really high-maintenance: he’s going to prepare the same coffee but showcase it across three different processing methods. there’s a washed version, a honey processed, and a (hi haters!) full natural. the judges get to taste them all, the final array comprising the signature drink looking like a crazy game of mancala, tiny glasses everywhere, rhubarb and ginger reduction, jesus it’s hard to keep track of complicated routines while taking pictures, sorry. the ambitious routine is impressive to watch…all 15:29 of it. he’ll have to cut that down before everyone in the audience has a heart attack, but where on earth can something like that be trimmed?
several other very nice people compete, including laura feldman from madcap (“the verve of the midwest”) and nathan hoida, the last alterra competitor. nathan is a new competitor this year and is preparing a washed guatemalan bourbon which threatens black cherry, dark chocolate notes. his signatre drink…good grief…is the “cherry seinfeld”, which nathan refers to as if it were a person…an actual comedian made of black cherry infused coconut milk might be pretty tasty, though. nathan tops it with a little bit of fleur de sel, and threatens his panel of judges witha “total tongue takeover”. i’m not quite sure what’s gotten into him, but i find out later he had borrowed colin whitcomb’s belt…that may explain it. and talk about a secret weapon!
finalists are announced as night falls on, and bizarrely inside, discovery world. in no particular order are scott lucey, colin whitcomb, mike phillips, charles babinski, trevor corlett and ryan knapp. the heavy hitters of the great lakes for sure (sans deferio and some up and comers) but what a crazy thing to see such a balanced (sans gender balance I mean) list. the friends and practice partners. the previous competition winners and their proteges. the two huge midwestern coffee giants and the humble small-town business that uses milk from a place called “mooville”. hell yeah. i hate being torn between loyalties like this, but saturday is gonna be one hell of a thing to watch.