A Competitive Spirit.

Much thanks, first, needs to go out to those who have sent all the congratulatory messages to Nick, Devin, and myself. Though my competitive nature is left unsatisfied, I am grateful for the outcome and excited for Portland. That said, onward, to my initial reason for posting.

To Mr. Gregory Lefcourt and those who feel the same,

In a recent interview (posted here), it seems that somewhere you received the wrong impression of me…

“Three baristas from [Portland roaster] Intelligentsia won the three top spots. These guys have apparently been training rigorously to win the competition, rather than pulling a full day’s work. This is extra curricular for me. I am busting my ass on a daily basis serving 300 people. I am not saying these guys aren’t, but I just know there is talk going around the industry that there are guys who are not serving fulltime.”

First of all, I’m not sure what exactly Greg is saying here. Early on, he accuse me of not putting in a full days work, but then partially recants the statement, to where it sounds like he thinks I’ve only been working part time. I want to reassure you that I have been working 35+ hours a week. You see I have to. I am not paid to train for competition and it is for me, extra curricular. In order to keep up on my bills, I must work at least 35 hours a week.

Beyond those 35 hours a week, Devin Pedde and I are responsible for most of the training that occures in our coffee bar. Currently, we have around 14 people, all in different stages of climbing the ladder to become baristas. You see, at Intelligentsia (A Chicago based Co.) a barista is more than an individual who pulls espresso and steams milk. Our baristas are trainers. Our baristas are coffee experts. They teach home brewing courses, they lead in store cuppings, and to become a Barista, they take a 1200 point test. We too live and breath coffee.

My competition training generally occures in the afternoon. Typically, I wake up at 4 AM, I open the coffee bar, I leave at noon. I grab some lunch… maybe a quick nap, and try to make it to our roasting facility by 1 or 2 PM. I like to spend time in our training lab. It’s where I became in Intelligentsia Barista and it’s where I go to try to become a better barista. I usuallly end up at the lab unti either 7 or 8 PM.

The time I have spent in that lab has been very rewarding… Mr. Lefcourt, I do serve hundreds of customers a day… and many of them were there to see me compete. They took pictures as I held my trophy, and the next day, they were there to greet me and congratulate me. They like to make funny jokes about how Devin beat me… Best of all, they now keep asking when the USBC is going to happen. They want to know and they want us to win. They see me 5 days a week… and the other two, no one sees me because I am in the lab.

I do not regret a moment I spend practicing and readying myself for the WRBC. If I regret anything, it’s that I didn’t repull that first set of espresso in the finals, I didn’t steam those caps hot enough, and I shouldn’t have used as much ginger in my signature beverage. I might regret not beginning my practice sooner, but I do not regret any of the time and effort put into this event. I am a better barista for it.

So, to anyone and everyone…we will have the opportunity to meet in Portland, OR. I’m excited to compete in my home town. I’m excited to work hard, find a new coffee, and to get to know that coffee. I look forward to seeing all my barista friends and hearing all of their stories of late night practice antics… and if, in the mean time, you happen to be in Los Angeles, please come by, snag an espresso, and I’ll be happy to take care of you.

Now, I’m taking a week off of training to celebrate… and honestly, I don’t know what to do with the time.


10 thoughts on “A Competitive Spirit.

  1. Well put.
    Portland will be great fun. I’m glad the tree of us will experience it together.

    BTW – that shot of Matthews espresso you pulled for me this morning was amazing!! Screaming sweet strawberry. I’ll be thinking about that one for a while.

  2. My boss Tony and I were just talking earlier about competition and advantages some people have over others. At the end of the day, if anyone of us (people who sometimes complain about things like not being able to afford nicer grinders, etc) were in the same position as someone who does has a nicer grinder or whatever, we’d all take advantage of it! While i’m definitely one of those people who whines occasionally, it’d be hypocritical of me to say i’d do anything different.

    You guys are totally deserving of the sweep, and you’re a credit to the title of “barista”.

  3. that Denver interview was not too smooth… see you in pdx mr. wilbur and congrats to you and your crew.

  4. Great post mate,

    I would also like to attest to the fact that the baristas here at Intelli never get paid to train for competitions and that they do indeed put in many, many hours. We at Intelligentsia all work hard at these things because we want to refine our skills and–maybe more importantly–it’s fun. For me, it’s roasting, coaching and practicing judging; for the guys, it’s everything encompassing the competition and as a result we are all better friends because of it.

    I’ve never been prouder to work for a such a professional company.

  5. glad to know you claim portland as your hometown as opposed to chicago… or was it boston? no that’s marissa…

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