By Dylan Jung
Aesthetic Coffee and Counter Culture Coffee played host to a totally great Southeast Barista Jam on May 31 In Asheville, North Carolina. More than 80 baristas from the Southeast region showed up for hands-on activities, lectures from industry leaders, opportunities to play on equipment and get to know one another, and of course, what jam is complete without a throw down and party at the end of it?
Regional roasters and reps were: Lindsay Lee and Scott Satterwhite of Counter Culture Coffee (Durham, N.C.), Marshall Hance of Mountain Air Roasting (Asheville, N.C.), Andy Gibbon of Dynamite Roasting Co. (Black Mountain, N.C.) and Andrew Ferguson of Torch Coffee (Raleigh, N.C., and Riverside, California).
Brady Butler of Carolina Espresso Services was also around to meet folks and talk about SCAA related things. He’s recently helped set up a machine for Lindsey Pitman of The Daily Press (Charlotte, N.C.).
Regional shops that were represented well were: High Five Coffee Bar (Asheville, N.C.), Waking Life Espresso (Asheville, N.C.), French Broad Chocolate Lounge (Asheville, N.C.), Not Just Coffee (Charlotte, N.C.), Due South Coffee (Taylors, S.C.), Coffee and Crema (Greensville, S.C.), and Old City Java (Knoxville, Tennessee).
Will Shurtz, who is the Vagabond Barista (Greenville, S.C.), did siphon demos all day long. Attendees were really impressed by his set up, as well as his way of talking about specialty coffee. Will does mobile set-ups wherever he is hired. With Aesthetic Coffee (Asheville, N.C.), I do craft coffee catering and specialty coffee services. It was really great that the two of us were there to rep the pop-up-shop style of our industry.
For events, we did a Triangulation, or Cup Tasters Challenge, to engage with the attendees. Most folks did end up giving it a shot. Tara Edens of Coffee and Crema (Greenville, S.C.) won the competition, guessing all four coffees right, in 30 seconds. Dang!
We held a pretty standard Latte Art Throwdown at the end of the night, of course. First place went to Tanner Morita of Not Just Coffee, second to Kelsey Viscount of Not Just Coffee, and third to Lindsey Pitman of The Daily Press. So basically, Charlotte, N.C., came to Asheville and swept us off our feet!
Sponsors for the competitions end events including our raffle were: Counter Culture Coffee, Barista Magazine, Baratza, Espresso Parts, La Marzocco, Organic Valley, and Highland Brewing Co.
We had a community table set up with brew device demos, and multiple coffees, for everyone to experiment around with. Folks could just walk in the door and start brewing, with assistance or not. Our espresso station ”outfitted with a gleaming La Marzocco ”was set up in a similar manner. Some people dialed in coffees they had not tried before, while other people worked on latte art and espresso extraction. Having this event set up with such a casual vibe really made meeting folks very easy, with coffee acting as the comfortable segue between conversation and education.
The best part of the event, though, was meeting people who are new to the specialty coffee scene. It seemed like they got to experience a whole new part of what coffee can be, how great it can taste, how many ways you can make it, and how many people it can bring together, in the search for the perfect cup. It’s fleeting, which is why we constantly strive to grow as an industry and learn from each other. In that sense, the event was perfect.