Saturday Series: The Rialta Coffee Tour, Part 7 ”SPECIAL BIG CENTRAL EDITION!

The Ultimate Coffee Road Trip Across the United States.

This week: Indiana to Washington, D.C.

Editor’s note:  We began publishing reports from Don Niemyer about the cafes he visited on his cross-country coffee tour back in the summer of 2013, and we’ve loved following his journey, learning about amazing coffeehouses out there in the United States, ever since. We’ll be publishing reports from Don about his recent journey around the Central and Northern states every Saturday this fall. To catch up on Don’s earlier posts about his explorations of coffee culture throughout the Western United States, click  HERE. To read the first installment from this new Saturday Series, click  HERE. To check out the second story, go  HERE. Read his third installment  HERE. Don’s fourth installment appears  HERE. His fifth installment can be found  HERE. And you can find his sixth installment HERE. We hope you continue to enjoy Don’s reports as much as we do!

By Don Niemyer
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE

MINNEAPOLIS?!?

OK, I’ll admit it’s kinda confusing. Just a week ago, right here on the Barista Magazine  blog, we were reporting from the East Coast, walking around in our tube tops and daisy dukes in 70 degree weather, and now here we are in Minnesota scraping ice and plucking icicles off the bumper of the RV.

WHA’ HAPPINNNN?

Well, there’s only one thing that can make this little RV divert course, abandon all logistical common sense, and bust our humps back to the Midwest (where, by the way, we just were), and that is BARISTA COMPETITIONS! In this case, it’s the Big Central in Minneapolis, home of local legends Café Imports (sponsors of the event along with Curtis) as well as a fantastic local coffee scene. Carissa and I have both volunteered as judges over the past few years, so we registered to do that again, pointed our rig back from whence we had done already came, and made for Minneapolis!

So what’s been going on at the event? Well, in typical Rialta Coffee Tour style, let’s let the pictures do the talking:

Our first order of the event was to join our fellow judges for some training and calibration. Thanks to our host, Café Imports, we had use of this sweet meeting room for some of the sessions, such as this one called  œMake sure you don't embarrass yourself or us  [not it's real name] led by Lindsay Scott.
Our first order of the event was to join our fellow judges for some training and calibration. Thanks to our host, Café Imports, we had use of this sweet meeting room for some of the sessions, such as this one called œMake sure you don’t embarrass yourself or us  [not it’s real name] led by Lindsay Scott.
After a full day of intense training, Café Imports treated us to some snacks and drinks. Here is ace judge and snappy hat-wearer, John Letoto enjoying a cracker with some stuff on it.
After a full day of intense training, Café Imports treated us to some snacks and drinks. Here is ace judge and snappy hat-wearer, John Letoto enjoying a cracker with some stuff on it.
Competition began at Uppercut Gym (a place for boxing and other fine events) and the crowd ”which was already quite wild ”went even more wild as co-emcees Marcus Boni and Laila Ghambari took the stage.
Competition began at Uppercut Gym (a place for boxing and other fine events) and the crowd ”which was already quite wild ”went even more wild as co-emcees Marcus Boni and Laila Ghambari took the stage.
The competition got under way with a flare as this gentleman blinded us all with SCIENCE!
The competition got under way with a flare as this gentleman blinded us all with SCIENCE!
We found this in the parking lot. Excited industry person? Ya think?
We found this in the parking lot. Excited industry person? Ya think?
Over at the Brewer's Cup stage they're busy just, oh, I don't know, making the world's BEST CUP OF COFFEE!
Over at the Brewer’s Cup stage they’re busy just, oh, I don’t know, making the world’s BEST CUP OF COFFEE!
This may look like a mess to you and me, but to these baristas, it's the place where they prepare to make competition dreams become reality.
This may look like a mess to you and me, but to these baristas, it’s the place where they prepare to make competition dreams become reality.
Any place there's a barista competition, there's probably gonna be a food truck nearby. Baristas love eating food prepared in a car on the side of the road.
Any place there’s a barista competition, there’s probably gonna be a food truck nearby. Baristas love eating food prepared in a car on the side of the road.
If you win, you get to go to coffee origin courtesy of Café Imports, you get to compete at the USBC, and you also get this table full of schwag!
If you win, you get to go to coffee origin courtesy of Café Imports, you get to compete at the USBC, and you also get this table full of schwag!
This is the Nuova Simonelli Black Eagle, official espresso machine of this year's competitions, with cameo appearances in the dreams of baristas world wide.
This is the Nuova Simonelli Black Eagle, official espresso machine of this year’s competitions, with cameo appearances in the dreams of baristas world wide.
The competition is stiff, the judges are serious, and the audience is on the edge of their seat ¦
The competition is stiff, the judges are serious, and the audience is on the edge of their seat ¦
 ¦except for these two gals who slipped off to the back to play a round of Corn Hole. Hey, when the hole de' corn has a rosetta painted on it, well, you'd play a round or two, too.
¦except for these two gals who slipped off to the back to play a round of Corn Hole. Hey, when the hole de’ corn has a rosetta painted on it, well, you’d play a round or two, too.
Packed house! And I realize it doesn't actually look like anyone's technically on the edge of their seat, but the seats are pretty small, so ¦.
Packed house! And I realize it doesn’t actually look like anyone’s technically on the edge of their seat, but the seats are pretty small, so ¦.
Here's head judge Ryan Willbur and former World Barista Champion Stephen Morissey admiring head judge Nathanael May's bow tie.
Here’s head judge Ryan Willbur and former World Barista Champion Stephen Morissey admiring head judge Nathanael May’s bow tie.
Hats off to Halfwit Coffee for providing loads of entertainment at their table. Puzzle of bathing barista? Got it. Connect Four? Check. And just a little Jenga on the side.
Hats off to Halfwit Coffee for providing loads of entertainment at their table. Puzzle of bathing barista? Got it. Connect Four? Check. And just a little Jenga on the side.
Not to be outdone in the fun department, emcees Marcus and Laila are keeping track of what the competitors put on top of those gorgeous cappuccinos. Monks Head? Heart? Tulip? Or good ol' fashioned Rosetta!
Not to be outdone in the fun department, emcees Marcus and Laila are keeping track of what the competitors put on top of those gorgeous cappuccinos. Monks Head? Heart? Tulip? Or good ol’ fashioned Rosetta!

So there you have it! The Rialta Coffee Tour: BIG CENTRAL edition! As you can tell, we’re having plenty of fun up here, as is usually the case with an event where this many fabulous baristas are gathered. The results will be coming out soon, and we’ll know which baristas will be representing the North Central region and the South Central region at the USBC, so check back in on the Barista Magazine social sites to see the results! As for the Rialta Coffee Tour, next Saturday we’ll head east again, and continue making our way down the east coast towards Florida. We’ll have that report for you right here next week, so be sure to check back! Until then, follow us at our social media sites, or at DonNiemyer.com. See you soon!

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

donandcarissa

Don Niemyer  used to own three coffee shops in Portland, Ore., where he and his wife Carissa spent 8 years immersed in the excellent coffee culture there, milking it like a dairy cow for every drop of expertise it would give them, making lots of friends, doing some USBC judging, and learning all they could. One day, they decided to move their kids closer to family, so they bought a tiny RV, moved into it, and have been œmoving to Colorado  ever since, visiting coffee shops, practicing minimalism, and having lots of fun. That was over two years ago. One of these days, they might even end up living in Colorado.

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