BY JESS STEFFY
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE
What happens when coffee people descend upon the always-charming, friendly, and hospitable Durham, North Carolina, for the Big Eastern? They fit right in!
Despite the competitive nature of these events, the coffee community on the East Coast is overflowing with kindness, generosity, encouragement, mutual respect, and camaraderie. Combine that with a ton of Southern hospitality, and you’ve got a li’l slice of highly-caffeinated heaven. Whether they were encouraging each other backstage, whoopin’ and hollerin’ from the audience, or turning-down-for-what together on the dance floor, these coffee professionals proved that they are more than each other’s competition. They are friends and sources of mutual inspiration.
The turnout was fantastic for all three action-packed days of competition. In addition to watching all of the brewing and barista comp-ing excitement, attendees were able to enjoy free(!) espresso drinks, courtesy of the BGA Cafe, which was sponsored and run by some of our industry’s finest companies and baristas (Counter Culture, Carrboro Coffee, Square One Coffee, Madcap Coffee, Toby’s Estate, Krankie’s Coffee, La Colombe, Panther Coffee, Octane Coffee, Joe Van Gogh, Swings Coffee, and Torch Coffee). The Wilbur Curtis team was also on hand, brewing and serving all of the Brewer’s Cup finalists’ coffee via their sexy Seraphim. We’d submit that the Durham Convention Center has never smelled so amazing.
Cool moment: A highlight of the event occurred on the final day, when a large group of attendees were treated to some delicious hand-brewed Kenyan coffee (courtesy of Jason Pohlig of Square One Coffee), only to realize that the farmer who grew it was standing right beside them. This farmer (Boyce) made the trip out to Durham to see the competition and taste his coffee brewed skillfully by hand for the first time. “I’ve never tasted my own coffee like this before!” he said. And he was massively encouraged by all of the positive feedback from the enthusiastic crowd. Seldom do farmers get to hear feedback this directly, and everyone couldn’t thank him enough for all of his hard work.
Competitions like these serve as a source of inspiration, both for coffee professionals and coffee lovers, and they raise the bar for our entire industry. In that way, everyone who competed was a winner. But in case you’re interested in the results featuring the top 6 competitors in each region/competition, here goes:
2015 Northeast Barista Competition Finalists:
- Sam Lewontin (Everyman Espresso) (607.5)
- Hadassah Wilson (Square One Coffee) (598)
- Michael Harwood (Ceremony Coffee) (594)
- Erika Vonie (Everyman Espresso) (589.5)
- Sarah Leslie (Gimme! Coffee) (575.5)
- Steven Latham (Box Kite NYC) (568)
2015 Southeast Barista Competition Finalists:
- Lemuel Butler (Counter Culture Coffee) (630.5)
- Trevor Corlett (Madcap Coffee Co.) (586.5)
- Anna Utevsky (Joule) (534.5)
- Nathan Nerswick (Empire State South) (522)
- Micah Sherer (Tandem Creperie & Coffeehouse) (498)
- Kyle Ramage (Mahlkonig USA) (488)
2015 Northeast Brewers Cup Finalists:
- Ronnie Hass (Ceremony Coffee Roasters)
- Mathew Evans (One Line Coffee)
- Carlos Morales (Third Rail Coffee)
- Brandon Epting (Irving Farm Coffee Roasters)
- Erick Armbrust (New Harvest Coffee Roasters)
- Tom Molieri (Greenstreet Coffee Roasters)
2015 Southeast Brewer’s Cup Finalists:
- Clark Le Compte (Independent, Washington DC)
- Zachariah Aquaviva-Brown (1,000 Faces Coffee)
- James Spano (Cup to Cup Coffee Roasters)
- Jack Snyder (Northside Social)
- Michael Rinaldo (Independent, Louisville, KY)
- Henry Boyd (Morning Times)
These talented baristas and brewers will compete at the United States Coffee Championships in Long Beach, California, this February for the chance to represent the U.S. at the World Barista Championship in Seattle in April, and/or the World Brewers Cup Championship in June in Sweden. We wish them all good luck as they prepare to win! (Or, œMay the odds be ever in your favor! #coffeegames)
Jessica Steffy owns Square One Coffee with her husband, Josh. After successfully operating Square One’s original location in Lancaster for years, Jess and Josh opened Square One’s second shop in Philly a couple of months ago. Jess and Josh have two young sons, and they’re working hard to instill an appreciation of awesome coffee in their kids as early as possible.