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We reached out to each of the 2015 US Barista Championship competitors prior to their routines, to learn a bit more about them as competitors and coffee pros. We hope you enjoy these interviews!
I placed 18th in my first competition at Big Eastern in January of 2014, a clean 300 points under J. Park Brannen and a few points ahead of the one other individual who did not DQ. I placed 13th in November at Big Eastern. I did not qualify for USBC, but Y.O.L.O I’m so pumped to have this opportunity.
Coffee: Kemgin by Ninety Plus
Milk: Highlawn Farm!!
Signature Beverage: This question makes me feel 8-10 bars of pressure.
Espresso, no butter or vanilla, ice. If that doesn’t read with humor, then my apologies. My signature beverage is an iced espresso based drink with two ingredients that speak to the story of Kemgin.
Secret Weapons: Probably the cheese in my head.
Playlist: I will tell you that I am opening with Mariah Carey.
Theme: I’m trying to abstract a non-coffee-metaphor into an overall theme. I don’t want to give away too much information, but I can tell you that I am pushing my weird imagination to get it. This is actually my first time ever working with a single origin espresso let alone competing with one, and I am excited about. Competing with proprietary coffees made it hard to say critical things, like the explicit countries of origin so I look forward to being able to provide a little more information that the judges want. With that being said, I am also trying to take the feedback I got from judges at Big Eastern and still be true to what I am about on stage. Finding balance is a wild RADventure.
Total Practice Hours: All of them; I hope my friends still talk to me after USBC.
Coach(es): I don’t really have a coach but Andrew Sanni from the Barrington Coffee Roasting Company has been helping me along the way.
Fashion: I worked with Kevin Alves to design this sweet t-shirt that was printed through CustomInk.com. Also, shout out to Aaron Taylor-Waldman who helped make this connection; we worked together on the previous two t-shirts I wore at Big Eastern in January/November. I believe in always wearing a collar to make espresso and I will be wearing black jeans by Krew.
Trivia: Going through competition without a mentor is wild. I’ve figured a lot of things out that a coach might tell you by just doing it wrong and learning from that. USBC will mark the third time I’ve really worked with the Mahlkonig K30. I can tell you pretty honestly that assuming the functionality of equipment versus the reality of it is funny mostly in retrospect. There is really only so much you can learn from reading a pdf one million times without consistent hands-on experience.
I think risk-taking in performance is thrilling and I think part of why I am able to do that is because I exist in a bubble. If I was mentored by someone who was telling me to just play for points, I’d probably be too stressed to drop a line about the bovine lifestyle or feel shame in making an unplanned Taylor Swift joke. I do want points. Obviously, I want to win at some point. I’m a very competitive individual but I think in order to really be a champion you should be able to lose like one, too. Grace and humility are important things.
I know that all I can do is my best and I understand the notion of best as inherently progressive so whatever by my best is now will be better later and this motivates me to just keep working harder.