Barista Champion of the United States of America

Editor’s note: As we approach the beginning of the 2014 World Barista Championship, which takes place in Rimini, Italy, June 9 “12, at the SCAE’s World of Coffee event, we would like to introduce you to the National Barista Champions who all worked incredibly hard to earn a position in this preeminent coffee contest. Profiles of all 54 competitors will appear on Barista Magazine’s blog between Monday, June 2, and Monday, June 9, and can all be accessed under the category header “WBC 2014 Rimini.”

Laila Ghambari
Cherry Street Coffee House

The United States' Laila Ghambari
The United States’ Laila Ghambari

Coach: Ryan Willbur

About you: Laila Ghambari is from Seattle, Washington. Born and raised. She is the Director of Coffee for her family owned business Cherry Street Coffee House, a 20 year old company with 10 locations. She a Barista Guild of America executive council member. This is her 4th year of barista competition.
¢ 2010 3rd place NW Region, USBC Semi Finalist
¢ 2011 3d place NW region, USBC Semi Finalist
¢ 2012 2nd place NW region, USBC semi finalist
Took 2013 off to train competitors and judge
¢ 2014 1st place NW region

How many years have you worked with coffee or in the coffee industry?
12 years.

Before coffee, did you work in a different job or industry, or what did you study in school?
I went to school for early childhood education. I think that more so the desire to be an educator has helped me in coffee than the formal education itself.    

How did you get started in coffee?
I grew up in it. My father owns Cherry Street Coffee House and so I’ve been around coffee my whole life.

Who has been your greatest influence in coffee? Why?
Sarah Dooley. I’m a stubborn girl and she is the type of friend that won’t let me settle or be prideful. She calls me out. She makes me a better person both leading by example, as well as pushing me to do so. I don’t think I would be as successful as I’ve had the fortune of being without her.

What would you like to see change about the coffee industry/community?
I’m a big fan of face to face discussion. I see lots of big topics being discussed on Twitter these days. I would love to see people taking these topics off line and creating working groups or setting up meetings to dive further into them. So I guess seeing people turn their words into action more often. We have a lot of forward thinking, opinionated people in the industry and I would love to harness those thoughts and ideas to create exciting change.

Name a barista you admire, and why:
Mohammad Khani from Iran. He is the most motivated barista I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. His passion is contagious and it has birthed a vibrant barista culture in Iran. After witnessing what he is capable of producing in just a year, I am excited for what the future holds for the Iranian Barista Guild.

Besides your own cafe, what cafe do you think everyone should visit?
We have a fairly new cafe in Seattle called VIf. The cafe is delicate with lots of natural light. It has a simple but well done food menu. The coffee menu is simple as well and they have a wonderful wine selection. The staff is entirely comprised of strong, elegant woman (including the owners). I just really love it.

Which coffee producing country you would like to visit, and why?
I have not had the chance to visit Africa in my life thus far so I think I would choose Ethiopia. The pictures I see people post from their trips to Ethiopia have always been the most beautiful to me. I would love to experience that first hand.

What are your interests outside of coffee?
I love being outdoors and traveling. Hiking and kayaking. Visiting new cities and trying new foods.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
5 years from now I’ll be walking around cafe build outs with a baby on my hip.

Is there anyone you would like to thank or who helped you prepare for the WBC?
I want to thank my team mates Emilio and Phil. This is just as much theirs as it is mine.
Ryan Willbur for being everything for me all at once.
Dillanos Coffee Roasters.
Cherry Street Coffee House.
My dad and whole family.
Jill and Richard from Pure Eire Dairy.
Dana and Michael.
Heather Ringwood
and most importantly Lanny Bassham.

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