A national coffee competition, featuring local and national coffee barista and brewers, is coming to Kansas City this week. The U.S. Coffee Championships (USCC) Qualifying Event will host the qualifying rounds for the U.S. Barista Championship and the U.S. Brewers Cup at the Kansas City Convention Center from February 2-5, 2016.
Winners in these KC qualifying rounds will compete in the national USCC in April in Atlanta. The public is invited to watch the country’s top baristas and learn about the finer points of barista craft and artistry. Baristas from Kansas compete in the Western Conference, while Missouri falls in the Eastern division.
Local baristas slated to compete in KC include Michael Schroeder from Oddly Correct coffee roasters, Kansas City, on February 2nd at 5:38 pm; David G. Hall, Kaldi’s Coffee Roasting Co., Kansas City, on Feb. 4th at 2:10pm; and Levi Roye, Post Coffee Company, Lee’s Summit, Mo., on Feb. 5th at 1:30 pm. Schroeder, a 32-year-old coffee roaster and delivery bicyclist at Oddly Correct who plans to compete in the Barista and Brewing Cup competitions, is a multiple regional finalist in past USCC events.
During the barista competition, Baristas will compete and demonstrate their espresso beverage-making skills. The barista must prepare and serve two espressos, two milk-based drinks and two signature drinks. Any ingredients may be used in the signature beverage preparation except alcohol, alcohol extracts or by-products, and controlled or illegal substances. Competitors have 20 minutes to practice, 10 minutes to prepare, 10 minutes to perform and 10 minutes to clean up. They will be evaluated by two sensory judges, two technical judges and one head judge.
Meanwhile, the brewing competition will focus on the art of manual coffee brewing. At the regional competition, competitors are judged in both rounds at the qualifying event. “One compulsory seven-minute round involves use of a mystery coffee and no presentation. It’s the same coffee used by all competitors,” said Kate Blackman, director of coffee at Parisi Artisan Coffee, who will serve as one of the judges. “With the open service round, competitors use their own coffee and a prepared presentation up to 10 minutes.”
Blackman, who has judged the barista competition at the regional and national levels over the past 10 years, offers these particulars: “For espresso, we consider taste and tactile balance as well as the accuracy of their flavor descriptors. If a competitor says ‘I’ll taste pecan, crème brûlée, and candied orange peel,’ then that needs to come through in the espresso I’m served,” Blackman explains. “For milk-based drinks, is the latte art present? Does the milk have a rich, ‘white chrome’ sheen to it? Also, we look at taste balance between rich sweet milk and espresso and accuracy of flavor descriptors.”