Best of Panama 2007


This year is buzzing by faster than I can comprehend at times. My lil bro is about to graduate high school next week, I’m in LA, The coffee bar is going to be open in a month or so, and the Esmeralda will be back in American roasters in full swing soon! It’s madness…

So, you’ve probably heard all the buzz about the $130 winning Best of Panama coffee… To share my true feelings… I’m stoked about the coffee, but disappointed in the auction. Intelligentsia is part of the buying group who won this fine coffee, but we were not the ones in the drivers seat on this massive assault of money flying straight into Price Peterson’s farm. I think we’re all proud to have a piece of the auction and to have helped raise awareness of specialty coffee in the public realm. That is my biggest goal through this. I hope that media attention is directed on all parties involved and that rather than absorb all the glory for the company, the buyers will relay the message of quality and progress in specialty coffee.

What disappoints me though, is the prices paid for the other coffees. Last year, at Paradise Roasters, we carried the #8 finisher, the Palo Verde. This coffee was awesome and I was stoked with its quality. Now, a year later, the coffees of that caliber have been neglected…

What I am concerned about as well is where the money is going. No offense, but Hacienda Esmerelda probably doesn’t have as much use for the money as the #2 farm. Are they receiving an above average price for their coffee… yes. But, still, if we had spread the wealth a bit more evenly, then I believe we could have achieved a greater good overall. To clarify… know that by we, I am referring to all of us that are part of the ‘more enlightened’ coffee community.

There’s not much more to say beyond that… The auction is over, now lets share the coffee. Congrats to all the farmers out there who are getting a slice of the pie. Your hard work is appreciated in ways you may never know… I just hope next year the market balances itself out.

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Welcomes & Other News…


For those of you who haven’t heard, Nick Griffith is officially on board for Intelligentsia Los Angeles. I’m really stoked to work with a barista of such skill and passion. Till fill you all in… Nick has been roasting now for awhile and it sounds like he’s pretty stoked to get back behind bar and pull shots again. It’s a feeling I can completely understand…

In other new, yesterday, Friday, May 25, brought us the 4th (I believe) Intelli LA Friday Latte Art Smackdown! That’s right… every Friday brings us another chance to put the money and skillz where the mouth is… The game goes like this, anyone who is capable has to throw in… Every person puts a dollar down and pours. You get one shot, no practice. It’s the same thing we did at our party during SCAA, but with a smaller pot. Then, here in LA, we take 2 finalists and give them one more shot and the winner is decided on the pours there… Kyle Glanville is still the reining 4 time champ… but that will change soon… I’m coming for ya biatch!

Idealisms

I should really be sleeping right now… Marcus is in town right now, and earlier discussion has my mind turning on some things… Things regarding barista events, USBC, WBC, ETC. Many posts on Coffeed are doing the usual discussion of what can be changed to make things better for future… blah, blah, blah…

I’ve got my thoughts and ideas, and I really don’t feel like posting them out in a forum for everyone to shred… these are my thoughts and ideas… take em for what they’re worth…

If you read regularly here, you’ve heard my thoughts on the competition judges. I would like to amplify those thoughts, and even go as to explain my view on who a judge should be. A judge should be tenured. Not someone who wants to be involved, but not commit to the competition. This jump right into judging attitude needs to stop. The judges should, for the most part, be retired competitors. People who know the game from the inside. Judges should be excellent cuppers, people with an experienced pallet… and at the USBC or WBC, someone who has judged before.

The other thing I believe is there’s really not a lot of reason left to not take the USBC structure further and make the regions step one… Make sure everyone and their momma has a chance to participate in a regional… but only take the top 6 or so from each region to the USBC. This will allow for more consistency in quality and excellence within the ‘main event.’

We need to educate more at the regional level. The NWRBC season opened with the “pre-game warmup.” Go Miletto & Co. for working with people to communicate what a competition should look like… I feel like a regional should be a 3 step process. A) is the pregame… explain rules, explain drinks, etc. Communicate what needs to happen in a presentation. B) Would be the competition itself. and C) would be a jam to wrap up the process… a jam with competitors score sheets… not just Q&A with the judges, but a chance to see what it looks like done right, and a chance to do it right yourself…

These ideas require more commitment, but I feel like it keeps regionals a little more local. Builds community and education between baristas. It also gives grounds for people like Ryan Denhardt, Joe Raines, Bronwen, Aaron Duckworth, Ellie H&M, and Matt Riddle a chance to pass on what they know from experience to those trying to carry on a competitive legacy.

I want a fourth machine… even/especially at the USBC. Show floor or none… we know from experience most floor shots are shit… Put competitors, their blends, and their personalities on the fourth machine. Keep it free. Keep it real.

A not so bad idea would be more public cuppings at regionals. It happened at the NWRBC and should happen everywhere… Think about it. You’ve got 20 competitors all telling everyone what is in their blends. On a local level… Roasters could provide the individual coffees competitors are using in their blends. So, when Robin Seitz is telling the audience about his Yellow Bourbon, Jeff Taylor has the stuff back on the cupping table for everyone to come get a taste…

Alright, I’m getting off of my optimistic, dreamer soap box and getting myself to bed…

Things I must get out of my head…

I’ve been sorta quiet post SCAA/USBC. Even on the boards, I haven’t had much intelligent to say. I guess it’s because my head is still spinning from all that has gone on. I mean, the 2,000 mile move, the show floor, competition (& it’s drama), and now working and slowly advancing toward opening, what I believe will be, the post progressive coffee bar the world has seen.

LA, my friends, has been such a nice change of climate. Not only is the weather lovely, but the scenery is much more appetizing. Lush green hills surround silverlake and not a day goes by where I can’t appreciate the views of hillsides and palm trees. The reality that I live here is yet to hit me, but I doubt it will set in until we open the bar.

I want to revisit a subject that I’ve been trying to avoid. The USBC. I’m not about to suggest any rule changes. That’s a constant battle everyone keeps raging and I don’t think it’s the key… The key, is not in the rules, but in the judges. We keep looking for consistency, but we also keep bringing in these home geeks, bar owners, etc. and the inconsistency needs to be weeded out before these kids hit the competition. I’m not saying there should be a higher criteria for who judges… but for who judges what event. I mean, you’re not stepping up to the WBC table until a year after you’ve completed the training, right? So, why not at least set the bar at having experience at a minimum of one regional? Is it just me, or does it seem logical.

Maybe my lack of faith in the first timers comes from my involvement with this years judges training… I was the guy who was supposed to be pulling good shots… And for the record, my machine was the one they pulled the plug on during the competition. I noticed the flow meters being really messed up, but just assumed someone would figure it out… yeah, I should have said something. Anyway, some of the comments being made by people, and some of the assumptions were purely ludicrous! Anyway, I just feel like until all the judges are extremely well calibrated, we’re always going to have these wild highs and lows in scoring…

Why does this matter some may ask… Because it shouldn’t be that hard of a competition to master! The rules are laid out before every competitor. They score sheets are theirs to study for months. They can even grab them right now and use the math to figure out what means the most for next year… The tamping, milk steaming, drink building is something that only nerves throw off. The competitors for this years comp weren’t newbies… They were some of the best baristas this world has to offer… All the scoring is the same from competitor to competitor… only one factor changes and that is the judges they are serving to. I know I’m gripping from a distance, as I did not compete this year… but take out all the hype and drama of what the competition is, and look at it from a simple, logical point of view.

Lastly, I kinda want to address the Tatiana Becker issue… Understand this, I’ve got mad love and respect for the Trabant kids… They’re some of the newest Clover kids and you have to give it up to them for that if nothing else! The only place I really feel Tatiana crossed the line was with the judges. Use your theme, be fun, but don’t make the judges wear beer hats. In fact, I feel Katie Carguilo went a little over board as well. Her drink involved dropping an espresso into a tall glass of steamed milk and practically jugging it. The judges aren’t college kids! Have a drink that is fun and interactive, but can we loose this party during competition crap. Somewhere in my first year of coffee it was pointed out to me how we’re an industry built of college drop outs and drug addicts… We don’t need to carry this into the USBC. The final piece of the puzzle is newly elected, Nick Cho. I can’t tell you how pissed I’ve been at the remarks he made on the podcast… The apology is accepted, the podcast is removed, and it will pass… but please everyone see what has happened. We are a barista family. There aren’t that many of us fighting to educate people on what coffee can be, we need each other to be encouraged and reminded we aren’t the only ones out there obsessing over this. Someday, maybe there will be enough of us to go on like that, but right now, we’re too small of a family…

Those are my thoughts, this is way too long… good night!

SCAA & USBC Flickr

Well, thanks to the awesome generosity of Mark Prince, you can now see my entire USBC & SCAA photo sets on Flickr. Just click the link above and you’re off!

Thanks so much Mark! I really appreciate it!

There’s also a set of pics from the party as well…

The USBC Recap

Well, I’m broke… So, you won’t be seeing my full collection of Flickr images from this years USBC for awhile… At least until I’ve upgraded to ‘Pro’. It’s taken me awhile to blog about the experience because there’s been so much running through my mind. All the performances were top notch. The results were flat out interesting… I’m still not sure how I feel. I feel particularly down because many of my ‘heroes’ of the industry didn’t make finals.

I’ll say this… I’m extremely proud of Deferio. It was good to see someone who is already celebrated for one skill, excel in another arena. Congrats my friend! It was also cool to see Kyle Glanville (K. Gizz) rock it as hard as possible. He managed to have one of the cleanest and most impressive performances of the competition, which, in turn, gave him the highest score of the weekend during the semi finals. This has happened before as well. Billy managed the same situation last year. Pete Licata must be mentioned for the hard work he must have put in. I saw him in January at the midwest and for him to do as well as he did here, he must have really applied himself. He looked way more confident and really did a great job. But you can read all day about the finals anywhere… let me mention some performances that need recognition…

SCOTT LUCEY! Scott rocked. Bottom line. The pride I feel for my craft went through the roof during the competition. I don’t care where he placed. What he did was rad. For those who haven’t heard, Scott actually pan roasted some green coffee during his presentation, cooled it, and served it in the same fashion of the Ethiopian coffee ceremony. When he was finished smoke had wafted above the stage area and the smell of roasted coffee filled the room. Chaff was all over the table cloth and it was beautiful. I would have loved to see him perform twice.

There’s been a lot of talk about the machines used in the competition. I actually volunteered during the judges training and was placed on one of the machines to pull good shots… which was really really hard to do. Why? Well, later they found out the flow meters were off. The middle machine was a problem during the entire competition. It was shut down a good part of the semi finals. This very much complicated and made the process tiring… However, La Marzocco are obviously listening. The hot water button on the competition machines was different. It was a toggle switch. I’m hoping all the newer machines rolling out will feature something similar.

The La Marzocco booth also had some sweet new innovations. Anything people have been bitchin’ about they worked into a ‘concept’ machine. Several machines all over had new improvements and ideas. There’s the paddle group GS3, the teflon coated portafilters, hybrid coated group caps, the new grinder, etc. Much respect for all those cats.

Well, I’m worn out form a long weekend. It’s time to go and rest. All there is to do today is hang out with our internationals, Deaton & Klaus, and finally clean the roasting works. Good times.

Cali or Bust!

Well, boys and girls, Devin and I arrived safely in California a couple days ago. All has been a blast thus far, and it will only get better from here on out. To recap everything in our trip would be a novel, so I will just let you in on some of the highlights.

Our first night landed us in Colorado Springs. We left at 5 AM from a suburb just south of the Twin Cities. Leaving so early and so far south of all the two good shops the area has to offer, we deprived ourselves all day. We did make a stop somewhere with wifi to check the espresso map… which reminded me of Novo.

Novo was an experience. They offer somewhere around 8 single origins to be made on the Clover. Once again kids! No airpots! No paper filters! No coffee sitting for hours! All of those SO’s are also available as espresso. I chose to have a cup of their Ethiopian Hache Coop. The cup was sweet, full bodied and was a great way to break a coffee drought. We followed the Clover cup with the same coffee pulled as espresso. The cafe itself sits on the main level of a performing arts center. The atmosphere is a little odd due to the fact that it’s in the middle of a cafeteria-esque strip. However, the surrounding businesses aren’t bad. On one side sits a lovely wine bar and on the other an organic cafe. We were treated exceptionally well and really enjoyed the break from the road.

The next morning, our friend who we stayed with, Aaron Millar, woke us up bright and early to cruise the ‘Garden of the Gods.’ The sunrise hitting the red rock was spectacular!

We drove from Colorado to Phoenix. We decided that with so much driving it was time for a vacation. So, we spent all day Sunday in Phoenix with some good friends, Josh and Marlo Lancaster… oh, and 8 month old Brogan. Marlo was my high school track coach… They moved from Vancouver, WA to Phoenix right after I graduated. So, it was awesome to see old friends. M-Lo’s parent’s have a lovely house that sits on a nice patch of desert… kinda at the base of some of the mountains there. The day was filled with riding ATV’s, swimming and great BBQ!

Oh, and while riding our ATV’s through the desert, we made some new friends and managed to catch it on video… enjoy!

Of course, we also have to say a major thank you to Aaron, Josh, Marlo, and lil’ Brogan for letting us crash at their places. It was good to see all of you! Seriously, the hospitality was knock-out!

Monday finally brought us in on the last stretch. We conquered the remaining 7 hours and managed to get here safely… minus my AC dying in the end hour… something no one wants in CA. So far this place is beautiful. It’s been a far cry from Minnesota and I’m okay with that!