Coffee goes Iron Chef

Those aren’t baristas preparing lattes and macchiatos at the corner Starbucks. They’re just button-pushers.

Real baristas—the nation’s best—convened in Long Beach earlier this month for the annual United States Barista Championships. Only two entrants, Sean Kohmescher and Lucky Rodrigues of Temple Fine Coffee and Tea, represented Sacramento in the four-day event (See “Wave of the future,” SN&R News, February 15).

Competitors prepared and served 12 beverages—an espresso, a cappuccino and a signature drink of the barista’s own creation—for a panel of four judges within a 15 minute time frame.

Kohmescher, Barista Guild of America representative for California and Hawaii, noted that the competition was intense. Heather Perry, this year’s champion from San Dimas, “was making a blueberry frappaccino when she won her first national championship [in 2003],” he remarked. Now, baristas have upped the ante considerably, as per Kohmescher’s signature drink, “East West": “heavy cream, sweetened condensed milk, green chili paste and marked with espresso, garnished with mint in a 2 oz. martini glass.”

Temple’s Rodrigues made it to the semifinals of the competition and was in the top-5 of West Coast competitors. And while the event has exploded in popularity, a recent poll by Krups, who sponsored the competition, revealed that only 33 percent of those surveyed knew that a barista was someone who prepared a cup of java. One percent responded “a person who loves burritos.”