Coffee, cooffee, coooffee, cooooffffeeeee, cccccccccoooooooofffffeeeeeee
"Baristas battle in specialty coffees"
Baristas battle in specialty coffees
By Sandra Fischione Donovan
Ah, the rich aroma, the exotic taste of a well-brewed cup of coffee.
Redolent of beans harvested from misty mountain slopes, coffee wakes us up
in the morning, entices us into the nearest cafe and fuels our bursts of
creativity during the workday.
Coffee aficionados can get their fix of caffeine and watch the best cafe
baristas in the East this weekend at two simultaneous coffee competitions in
"For the Love of Coffee," presented by the Specialty Coffee Association of
America. The competitors will ply their skills Friday through Sunday at the
Pittsburgh Marriott North, Cranberry, in either the Northeast or
Mid-Atlantic Regional Barista Competitions. Local baristas participate in
the Mid-Atlantic competition. Attendees also can browse an accompanying
"We've never hosted the event before; it's usually held in New York,
Philadelphia or Washington, D.C.," says Ed Wethli, 46, of Kiva Han Coffee
Co., a Cranberry coffee purveyor and one of the event sponsors. "It's big
for Pittsburgh to get this. We had to be approved."
About 60 baristas will compete in the Northeast or Mid-Atlantic
competitions. The finals for both regions will be Sunday. Winners from each
region will be awarded all-expenses-paid trips to compete in the national
competition later this year in Portland, Ore.
"Most competitions host only the Mid-Atlantic or Northeast regions," Wethli
says. "We're hosting both, which is big. The event really heightens what
specialty coffee is."
In 15 minutes, each barista will brew 12 specialty beverages -- four
espressos, four cappuccinos and four signature drinks -- using music,
choreography and patter.
"It is very entertaining," Wethli says. "It's very theatrical."
It may be fun for the audience, but competitors will perform before four
"sensory judges" who will watch the barista and taste the coffees; two
technical judges who will evaluate how the competitor used the machines and
the size of the drinks; and a head judge, who will preside over all.
In addition to making the coffees with precision and flair, baristas will
tell the audience where the coffee beans came from, whether from a small
village in Mexico or the slopes of a mountain in Sumatra.
"One of the things that's really good about this event is showing people how
much goes into their coffee," says Luke Shaffer, 32, co-owner with his wife,
Alexis, of 21st Street Coffee in the Strip District. "There's a ton of
labor, effort and care in producing coffee, getting it out of the country
(of origin) and then having someone who cares enough to present it well. ...
It will highlight coffee as a drink on its own."
Shaffer helped train some of the local baristas on two recent weekends at
Kiva Han Coffee in Cranberry.
"The main thing I tried to emphasize was how to properly pour a good shot of
espresso," says Shaffer, who will also compete. The drinks prepared during
the competition "all contain a shot of espresso," he says.
Dana Waelde, 26, of Bloomfield, a barista at Crazy Mocha in Oakland who will
compete, says she realized from the training that she was focusing on some
things that weren't as important in the competition, such as doing latte
art, those creative designs in the latte foam. "It's not necessary to do
it," she says.
"I'm working on my signature beverage," says Waelde, who already has created
a signature coffee roast blend used in all the Crazy Mocha franchises.
Wethli believes Pittsburgh was approved as the competition site because
"Pittsburgh is very up-and-coming. There is a real presence in Pittsburgh
for the specialty coffee industry. ... Pittsburghers consume a lot of
While entry to the competition and accompanying trade show, For the Love of
Coffee, is free, attendees can spend $10 to eat desserts prepared each day
by nine local restaurants and food purveyors. They are the Springfield
Grill, Bar Louie, North Country Brewing Co., McGinnis Sisters, The Fig Tree,
Sweethouse Bake Shop, Fresh Cup Cafe, Mimi's Bake Shop and the Marriott. The
Crazy Mocha chain will set up a coffee bar and sell specialty drinks for $3.
Proceeds from the coffee and dessert buffet will go to the Greater
Pittsburgh Food Bank.
Coffee brewing tips
If you like coffee but just can't seem to duplicate the mellow flavor of
your favorite cafe or restaurant, take some tips from Ed Wethli of Kiva Han
Coffee Co. for brewing great coffee:
. Buy coffee that has been fresh-roasted within the past two weeks, and buy
only enough for two weeks. "There's oil in the beans," Wethli says. That oil
dries up in a couple of weeks, and you want to release that oil when you
. When you get the beans home, roll up the bag, put it in an airtight
container and place in a cool, dry place. The freezer is best.
. Grind the beans fresh each time you brew a pot to release the oil.
. Use a brewer hot enough to extract the oils. Wethli recommends the
Cuisinart grind and brewer or a French press pot. He also recommends a
cone-shaped filter, rather than a flat filter.
. Use filtered water, as minerals in unfiltered water can affect the taste
Whet your winter palate
Looking for a different cup of coffee to warm your winter mornings or
accompany your evening dessert? Ed Wethli, owner of Kiva Han coffee
purveyors, suggests two specialty drinks to whet your winter palate.
Cafe de Olla
Cafe de Olla
. 8 cups water
. 2 cinnamon sticks
. 3 whole cloves
4. ounces brown sugar
1 square semi-sweet chocolate
. 4 ounces ground coffee
In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil, then add the cinnamon,
cloves, sugar and chocolate. When the mixture comes back to a boil, skim off
Reduce the heat to a simmer, then add the coffee. Steep for 5 minutes, then
strain out the coffee grounds and spices. Serve immediately.
Cafe Con Miel
. 2 cups hot coffee
. 1/2 cup milk
. 4 tablespoons honey
. 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
Heat all ingredients until warm, but not boiling. Stir well to dissolve the
honey, and serve.
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