nothing a headcold and a little side trip up the pacific coast won’t do to slow down the delivery of days-old news to one’s ever-quiet, miniature readership…
in any case, remember saturday? the usbc semifinals began first thing in the morning with scott lucey, whose tribute to the farmers at nelson melo’s farm is the renaming of last year’s delicious, stunning “liquid swords” to “espadas liquidas”. it’s a tricky drink to assemble, but “you must take risks in this game”, and scott does — in fact, it’s a risk he’s taken to begin with to do this routine to begin with, revisiting and improving a drink and a coffee he scored third in the country with last year. it’s for him a formal exercise: perfecting an act, a presentation, a message, within the constraints of competition as we know it. others have raised questions about creativity and what it is the competition is supposed to test or present. so what IS the competition supposed to test or present? and why wouldn’t you take a fantastic routine and deploy it again to try to win it all? if anything this has opened a conversation that i’d like to see continued — one that would better the practice of barista competitions going forward. as those of us who buy into the value of this ask themselves over and over again every year: what exactly is the function of these competitions, anyway? and so many of us have different answers. anyway, then laila ghambari drops her cocktail strainer on the floor mid-routine and we move back to thinking about more trivial things, like how many points is that gonna cost?
during mike phillips’‘s performance, a senior in the crowd tries to engage me about recent coffee articles in the new york times, which i did not write, and then tells me i am a “very sexy lady”. though it’s always nice to know that mike continues to inspire romance in the crowd, i’d rather watch his routine again — a lot of us are still reeling a little from seeing it in the great lakes regional. there’s no more 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of Discovery World office paper folded up to catch the purged coffee from his three-hopper-monte trick… now there’s a nice steel chute fashioned by the boys back home. big pimpin’, no doubt, as is the whole shebang (the same costa rican coffee processed three ways, served up in 28936423647699999 configurations).
lem butler of durham’s counter culture coffee ambidextrously double pours his cappuccinos, so new school, but serves them all four at once because he’s old-school. it’s weird when you think that old school was two years ago.
trevor corlett almost serves rob tuttle his signature drink first, then realizes rob is not a girl, and takes it back, serves other female judge. backstage, flies are beginning to circulate around the trash can and the barista prep tables. it’s a little apocalyptic…
the delightful lorenzo perkins of austin’s caffé medici produces a mini cupping of his santa rita coffee as part of his routine, and makes espresso to the tune of “me and my arrow”. less innocently, devin pedde says something about apricot draping itself all over the judges palates…. is my hearing working correctly?
finalists are announced and it’s an interesting batch: charles babinski, mike phillips and ol’ palate-draper himself devin pedde from intelligentsia, mike marquard of kaldi’s coffee, a finalist last year (along with mike and devin), and chris baca and (thank god, a girl) sara peterson of verve coffee roasters in lovely santa cruz. a tight match and you always wish there could be seven places in the finals…but you know that if there were seven, you’d just wish there could be eight. time for a long exhalation from every and all.
i make short work of a thousand-headed gathering over at the hilton, and escape with jenni and some ginger-haired texans to anywhere but anaheim for middling-quality food and high-quality company. it’s moments like these during conventions, when you get to hang out with, oh, groups smaller than four, that really save your sanity. three days down, on to the next one!