A few words from owner Steve Fritzen, who judged the Big Central Brewers Cup:
The 2013 Big Central Barista Competition and Brewers Cup
This past weekend I had the honor of judging the best brewers in the north central and south central region of the United States. It took place in Kansas City, Missouri and was hosted by PT’s Coffee of Topeka, Kansas and Kaldi’s Coffee of St. Louis. Missouri. The Big Central is an SCAA sponsored event to showcase some of the best baristas in the country.
Steve during the day 1, blind judging, of Brewers Cup
To sponsor, host, and organize such an event is a spectacle in itself. Espresso machines, grinders, water, lighting, sound systems, live streaming, judges and volunteers from around the country, and energetic and passionate baristas, all of whom have been working tirelessly to make this such a wonderful event. The winners of the regionals get to participate on a national level at the United States Barista Competition, which will be held in Boston, Massachusetts, with the chance of representing the United States at the World Championships in Melbourne, Australia.
Jon Ferguson of Dogwood Coffee Company, St. Paul MN, served up the best cup of coffee Steve has ever had during the Brewers Cup Competition. http://www.dogwoodcoffee.com
As a former competitor with three regional third place finishes and a sixth place finish at the United States Barista Competition in Charlotte, North Carolina in 2006, I know first hand the level of excellence these competitions bring out in a barista’s skill, knowledge, and passion. Knowing what is at stake, being on the other side as a judge, I found just as much pressure to assure consistent and correct evaluation of the many competitors that participated this weekend. My two other fellow judges, Neil Balkom, from Crop to Cup, and Jess Brooks, with Allegro Coffee, and I had eye opening experiences, which began in the compulsory round one format—which had all twenty competitors brew the same coffee and then be tasted blindly. This round allows for an even playing field to showcase brewing skills and coffees attributes to the fullest. The top six participants in each region then moved on to compete in the finals round. In the final round, the brewers got to bring their own special coffee and showcase it during a ten minute routine. We judge their results based on aroma, flavor, aftertaste, acidity, body, balance, and overall; and then critiqued their taste descriptors, customer service, and overall performance. This was actually the highlight for us judges because you can see first hand the brewing tools and apparatus used to create their brew, extraction nuances, and best of all the incredible coffees.
It was during this event I had one of those life changing coffee experiences. To say I had the best cup of coffee ever put in front of me might be an understatement. I was simply stunned, almost speechless, and in total wonderment, that coffee could taste and smell so elegant, pristine, and beautiful. It brought me back to when I had my first ever real great espresso, which made my mind up that I was going to open up my own coffee shop. This is the kind of experience that changes people forever. The growth and learning that I walked away with this weekend is one that happens all the time for me in this industry. There is so much effort put into making coffee from seed to cup, it dumbfounds me how complex a product can be. Thanks to all of the great competitors that I learned so much from over a couple days. You have inspired me so much!
The Coffee Culture was strong in Kansas City. https://www.theroasterie.com
One of the great aspects of these events is the camaraderie of the fellow competitors, sharing of duties by eager volunteers, and just plain friendships that are fostered and rekindled. The coffee community is actually a very tight knit group and is growing all the time, even though great distances, demanding jobs, and schedules make it hard at times. The sharing of coffee passion is what fuels this industry to new heights and continues to foster excellence, quality, and relationships like none I’ve ever encountered. This is so evident in the rise of the coffee culture in Kansas City and in general the Midwest. Everyone likes to think that Seattle or the Pacific Northwest in general is where coffee is king. Even though this is where it all began, you don’t have to look far to see great coffee scenes emerging all over the country. This is all due to passion, dedication, and education of coffee professionals, and the sharing of the knowledge within our blossoming coffee culture. Kansas City’s coffee scene is proud, enthusiastic, and skilled, but most of all they want to extend this to their customers. I felt such an eager sense to serve and please, so typical of Midwest hospitality! Both myself and my wife, April , who volunteered over the weekend, went home with warm hearts and great memories of our stay here.
Steve having a single origin expresso at Parisi Cafe in Union Station, Kansas City. http://www.parisicoffee.com
I would like to personally thank all of the wonderful people involved with making this weekend one to remember. Just as when I competed, I’m taking home with me a feeling of having bettered myself, motivated to improve my own cafe, reflect on my experiences, and most of all to share my passion and knowledge with my staff, customers, and fellow coffee enthusiasts in our area—to better promote the wonderful world of coffee. Thanks once again to the SCAA, PT’s Coffee, and Kaldi’s Coffee, all of the national sponsors, volunteers, and especially the barista’s who worked to hard to make great coffee!