We continue our chat with this year’s U.S. Barista champ about their selected coffees, and how their rewarding experiences will shape both their life ethos and content moving forward.
BY KATRINA YENTCH
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Cover photo by Niki Weegens
Yesterday, we began a conversation with 2022 U.S. Barista champion Morgan Eckroth (she/they), a barista at Keeper Coffee and the content creator of Morgan Drinks Coffee, a successful profile on TikTok and other social media channels. We wrap up our conversation with them by chatting more about working with the team at Onyx Coffee Lab, how they chose their coffees, and what their followers can expect from Morgan Drinks Coffee this year.
Note: This interview has been condensed.
Katrina Yentch: There are a lot of coffees to choose from and you picked Eugenioides, a rising star in the competition world. I’m curious how much your coach Lance Hedrick and the team at Onyx Coffee had inspired you to choose this coffee, and how much of your own influence went into the process of selecting your coffee.
Morgan Eckroth: This season there were a lot of constraints that don’t usually exist. Two months is not a lot of time to get coffees brought in internationally. It’s really difficult and time-consuming. In an ideal world we would’ve had time to go to origin and actually work very closely with the farm we’re gonna get coffees from, and we’d have time to taste everything. This year that just literally wasn’t possible, so Onyx came to me with two of the coffees that they thought would perform really well and were excited about and had enough of. Those ones happened to be the Eugenoides and Sudan Rume, which I used for my signature and my espresso.
They were like, “Here you go. Try these out! If you don’t love them we’ll keep exploring. You need to be in love with them, so let’s start from here and figure out what you want.” And so I tried the Eugenioides and I was like, first of all, it’s awesome to be able to talk about and explore a species of coffee that’s gaining more traction and sweeping the competition stages. But also it’s an opportunity to talk about this coffee to my audience, who very few knew about it.
The Sudan Rume is kind of on the opposite side, whereas the Eugenioides was incredibly sweet—super low caffeine, and high sugar. The Sudan Rume is a much more tropical and high-acidity coffee and it’s wonderful and complex. I just fell in love with it personally, so the two of them coming together just made sense. Even though I had the flexibility if I wanted to try different coffees, it was really lucky. We just nailed these right away.
Your signature drink had some strong cocktail mixologist elements to it, like using oleo-saccharum and saline. I was curious how that came together and how much you were experimenting with mixology to influence your drink.
It’s funny because most competitors will say this when you’re developing your signature drink—you just crack open a cocktail book and just start pulling things. So this year a component of creating the signature drink was knowing that we wanted it to be something that people can make at home. Part of the routine was that we had released the recipe and encouraged people to make it alongside watching the livestream. So it’s like you have the same sensory experience as the judges are having; that was kind of a component of it. So that kind of limited a bit of what we could do because it had to be accessible.
But we knew we wanted it to be chilled, something shaken. It’s a method for drinks that I really like and it’s simple. And then we were like, “Well now we have to put ingredients in!” … A lot of it is looking up cocktail recipes, and learning what those things are, just throwing things at the wall and eventually something tastes good.
What was the most fun part of putting the routine together? And what can we expect from Morgan Drinks Coffee in the future?
I think the most impactful part of this season’s competition was the amount of collaboration that happened. Both with the folks at Onyx, and I know that this is so cliche to say, but it really takes a village to put a competitor on stage, and I think most competitors would say that. There are so many people, so many folks at Onyx and Keeper and my family. Once we got to competition this year, there was a unique sense of camaraderie amongst the competitors. I came out of the competition with a lot of really valuable friendships in a really cool way. Honestly my favorite part this year was collaboration at every single level, from when we started forming the routine to getting to Boston and being with competitors. But we aren’t competing against each other; we’re just doing the best we can in every single way. In that way everyone was supporting each other, which was a very cool experience.
And moving forward, that’s the million-dollar question. Going into this year I just thought that I was gonna do the best that I can do. In a pipe dream, I was like, I’d love to win. You don’t ever really expect it to happen and then it does and you’re like, oh shoot! What do I do now? Do I just go back to normal?
I can tell you at least that Morgan Drinks Coffee will continue in a lot of ways that it has in the past. I still plan on making my little sketches and plan on doing really silly things with coffee on YouTube. But also my time and my presence online has evolved in the past three years and I anticipate that it will continue to evolve over the next four months. A lot of my life is gonna be taken up by competing for Worlds (taking place Sept. 27-30 in Melbourne, Australia). And so we’re gonna continue sharing the process, which will be incorporated into my content. I am currently figuring out what comes next career-wise in coffee, but for the time being without a doubt there will be shenanigans. We are going back to semi-regular programming after this!
What has been one of the most valuable things you’ve learned from this process and your team?
I think the thing I have taken away most from this experience is something that Andrea (Allen) told me when I was working on writing my script. I had tons of ideas and sentences that were too long and very chaotic. I had so many things I was trying to say all at once. And Andrea looked at me and said, “Come into what you’re doing here with a clear message. What is one sentence that you want to communicate with this routine? And then drive that home as hard as you can.”
That was something that was really influential in developing my routine. And honestly I carried it out of competition as well, with defining my mission and sticking to it. …
So what is that message?
That sentence nowadays for me online, my goal is to make specialty coffee as fun and approachable for everyone as possible. That is my goal online at all points. I’ve said many times I don’t make content for coffee people. I make content about coffee for anyone, and I’m really glad when coffee people can enjoy it. But overall my audience is not coffee people and I think that’s something I value a lot and is pretty unique, and so my goal is to make that bridge from me to specialty coffee and add value to the supply chain and make it as seamless as possible, because I care about the industry a lot. And if there’s anything I can do to help it grow, I’m gonna do as much as possible. So that’s kind of my driving force behind everything.