Cassie Ash and Angela Ferrara are the winners of the Barista League USA tour—find out more about their team name, their matching outfits, and how winners of the Kansas City leg went on to win the entire competition.
BY ASHLEY RODRIGUEZ
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Photos by Evan Howe. Confetti by Britt Calder.
Cassie Ash and Angela Ferrara are your 2018 Barista League USA winners; the Barista League is a competition started in Europe that made its first trip to the United States this summer. After winning their leg of the competition in Kansas City, Cassie and Angela’s team—dubbed The Timeliners—was declared the overall winner at the end of the tour. In this interview, Cassie and Angela talk about how they know one another, their team name, and how they persevered through the competition.
Ashley Rodriguez: Can you tell us about your beginnings in coffee? What were your first jobs and what do you do now?
Cassie Ash: I started working at Peregrine Espresso in 2014. After a few years of being a part-time barista and part-time freelancer, and a brief stint in Philly, I returned to D.C. to work for Peregrine founders Ryan and Jill Jensen. Now I split my time between the Union Market shop and the Jensens’ roasting company, Small Planes Coffee, where I run customer support.
Angela Ferrara: I started working in coffee during college in Beverly, Mass., at the sweetest second-wave café and restaurant. My boss there, Tori, was so lovely and so great at hospitality. I learned a lot from her about how to interact with guests and how to value the people who work for you and with you. Once I graduated college, I moved home to New Jersey and (after a brief detour into cheese) started working at a coffee shop in Princeton, which is where I acquired the bulk of my coffee knowledge and learned to make a proper third-wave cappuccino, among many many other useful coffee-related skills. Thanks, Randy Levine!
Now I work at Little Pearl in D.C., which is a coffee bar/lunch spot during the day and a wine bar at night. Little Pearl is a Passenger account and the most food-focused job I’ve ever had. (I love food.)
AR: How do you two know one another? Why did you decide to compete?
AF: We met working at Ultimo Coffee in Philadelphia.
CA: We decided to compete as a team because I love working with Angela (who happened to coach me to success at the Capitol City prelims this summer). We decided to compete in Kansas City because we could do double duty with Barista League and a visit to my family, who all still live in the suburbs.
AR: Tell us about the competition—were you excited? Nervous? What was the most difficult part? What did you excel at?
CA: I went into Barista League just happy to be there. It was great to see some familiar faces and great to meet a lot of wonderful people for the first time. Steven, Filip, and Ashley created the most pleasant and collegial competition I’ve experienced in my life, and realizing that I didn’t need to be nervous was a gift.
AF: I was excited! The most challenging part for me was dialing in the Poursteady during practice time. We had time to brew about four cups total, and went with the cup that we thought tasted the best of those four. There was really no time for nit-picking, which honestly I think made the competition more fun.
CA: The sensory round was most difficult to me. It was also hands down the challenge on which I was most thankful to have Angela as my teammate. I wouldn’t have won this on my own, and I certainly had more fun because I was on her team. Probably I excelled at being a bit goofy during the barista skills round and taking ridiculous photos that are now widely shared. Whoops.
AF: I really enjoyed the sensory round. The infusions didn’t all taste good, and they weren’t easy for us to guess, but they were challenging in a good way. Cassie and I definitely needed to depend on and trust each other’s palates in this round. Each of us came up with two of the four correct answers we submitted. I think both of us excelled at being good teammates under pressure.
AR: Tell us about your team name. Did you dress up or have costumes?
CA: Coming up with a name might actually have been the most difficult part of Barista League. We settled on ‘The Timeliners’ in reference to a book-making project that charts the beginning of our relationship. Because, right, important to mention maybe: We’re partners in real life too.
AF: We wore (almost) matching shirts from Mokuyobi. They’re based in Pasadena and have the most amazing, happy, colorfully patterned clothing.
AR: It must have been exciting to win your leg of the competition, but what was it like when you found out you won the entire competition? What will you do with your victory?
AF: I joked leading up the the final announcements that being projected on the wall of an event to find out if we won was my worst nightmare. But! In line with the rest of the competition, it turned out to be fun and inclusive and I was really glad we conferenced in. It was also so nice to be able to watch the livestream of the competition results and see all of our Philly friends competing and volunteering.
CA: Oh boy. It was strange. Perhaps the chillest grand prize announcement ever because we were on our couch with our dog, Charles, who was trying his hardest to get screen time.
I’m not entirely sure what we’ll do with the victory, but it’ll definitely involve taking some amazing pictures with that magnificent eagle claw trophy.
AR: What advice do you have for folks interested in competing in The Barista League?
AF: If you’re interested, you should take part! Volunteer! Compete! Show up and hang with awesome coffee folks! It was so much fun. Steven and the rest of The Barista League team did an amazing job making this accessible and inclusive. My advice would be to show up ready to talk to people, make some tasty coffee, and not take the competition aspect too seriously. Our motto the day of the competition was, “Let’s just have fun!” And we really did!
CA: Go! And go to have fun! Enjoy the opportunity to compete without dedicating months of spare time to practice. Barista League asks you to use skills you already have without taking yourselves too seriously. Don’t miss it!