Barista Magazine’s editor Sarah Allen and publisher Kenneth R. Olson have been personally reporting on and photographing the World Barista Championship final round since 2005, when Barista Magazine launched. Sarah sits at the side of the stage, madly typing as she records the performance of each finalist, while Ken traverses the stage with his camera, stopping back by the side of the stage periodically so Sarah can download his photos.
The result is live reporting on each finalist, with photos up to the minute from the stage. But since the WBC finals day is a pretty busy one in the world of coffee, sometimes these posts that showcase the amazing talents of the 6 WBC finalists get lost in the shuffle.
We decided to repost them individually this week to give each finalist the attention they so richly deserve.
BY SARAH ALLEN
PHOTOS BY KENNETH R. OLSON
What can I possibly say about Charles Babinski, the incredible Charles Babinski, that hasn’t been said before? I’ve been glued to social media specifically because the many people who love Charles have been putting up the most amazing photos, the most sweet tributes to this man. He is beloved on a level that I’ve really not seen before.
So Charles takes the stage: I’ve seen Charles take the stage so many times! He placed second in the United States Barista Championship three times before winning the title this year. But every single time I’ve seen him, all these times over all these years, he’s just. So. Awesome. He’s just so fun. And man, he is just so damn good.
I’d venture to assert that Charles singlehandedly brought service back to the forefront of third-wave coffee. For Charles, service is absolutely everything. But wait ”the coffee is everything, too. And you get that when you watch him. God, if you haven’t seen the way he waxes poetic about the coffees he uses here at the WBC, please stop reading this and go watch online right now. But service! He says it best in this competition performance when he says how easy it can be to get caught up on coffee people on Twitter ”the geeky conversations, the exceptionally specific arguments we have about the most minuscule details of our work ”how easy it is to lose perspective. But everyday when he walks into the cafes he owns with his friend and former USBC champ Kyle Glanville, G&B Coffee and Go Get Em Tiger in Los Angeles, he is immediately brought back to that number one driving force of his business: his customers. They are the most important to him. They are everything.
Today he used 2 coffees: a Honduran from a farm called Ocotillo roasted by 49th Parallel, and an Ethiopian roasted by Heart. The premise of his performance was drawing a parallel with small coffee farmers: small business owners. That’s what Charles, with Kyle, is, too. He talked about how Kyle and he realized how important having automation and systems in place was to them for the simple reason that it makes it easier for them to serve customers well. They don’t want to be fiddling with a scale or tool or grinder setting or temperature gauge when they’re trying to serve customers. They pre grind ”THEY PREGRIND. Why? So the customer doesn’t have to wait any longer than necessary. The uber coffee nerd would say that grinding and remeasuring coffee an hour before it’s served will make it stale. OK, it won’t be as fresh as it was an hour ago. What’s more important though: that teeny tiny taste variation (if you honestly can taste it), or the customer satisfaction that act ensures? The choice is clear for Charles.
Charles served his judges his signature beverage first, using the Honduran coffee. He wanted to bring out raisin and vanilla sweetness, and pine, that he tastes in the coffee. He made a juniper simple syrup to add complexity, and he juiced and reduced a grapefruit to combine, as well. He asked his judges to enjoy it in a variety of ways, looking for the aromatics which he brought out by blending it. Then came the taste after ”less foamy and more the essence of the coffee itself.
I have no doubt whatsoever that his coffees tasted fantastic. But for Charles, it’s service, and to say he delivered today would be the understatement of the year. Bravo, Charles.