Meet The World’s Best Barista
By Robin Jay
The competition is nearly down to the last drop. Champion coffee brewers from 50 nations have converged on Melbourne, Australia, to compete in The World Barista Championship. The top six brewmasters have received their final challenge: Prepare four espressos, four cappuccinos and four original signature drinks – in a 15 minute performance, set to music. To win, you must not miss a beat. Oh, and one more thing: For the ever-popular signature beverage, baristas must stretch their imaginations, temp the judges’ palates and incorporate a wealth of knowledge into a recipe that expresses their individual tastes and experiences. No pressure!
The Final Moments
Contestants pour their final cups. World Coffee Event judges from around the world carefully taste each coffee libation, grading each performance on the taste of the beverage, creativity, cleanliness, technical skill and overall presentation. They ponder…collaborate…and are ready to announce the winner.
The World’s Best Barista is: Mr. Pete Licata! Coffee fans cheer. Can you guess the winner’s city of origin? Bogota, Columbia? Lima, Peru? Rome, Italy? No ladies and gentlemen, the World’s Best Barista is from none other than – Kansas City, Missouri!
“I think of this award as just the beginning of bigger and better things!” said Licata, 35, who admits he had no clue what a latte was until he began working part-time at a coffee shop in college (now, he’s the Quality Assurance Manager for Parisi Coffee in KC.) “I love the versatility of coffee. It has a huge range of natural flavors in the bean itself, but it can also be used in food recipes or beer to add new dimensions of flavor. Coffee can really pair with a lot of flavors!
“Coffee is a bit of a universal beverage,” continued Licata, who describes himself as introspective, sarcastic and thoughtful. “I don’t always talk a lot, but when I do, you better believe it is because I know what I’m talking about! Everyone knows coffee in some form or another. New-wave specialty coffee has been embraced worldwide, especially by people at the forefront of trends and popular culture. It helps bring communities together. But sometimes we in the specialty industry take coffee too seriously. The point of coffee is to taste good and to make people happy.”
If you brew coffee at home, here’s some advice from the World Champ:
- Buy whole beans freshly roasted from a specialty roaster. Store them in a cool, dry, and airtight container away from sunlight.
- Get a “burr” grinder (not a spinning blade) and grind those beans right before you brew your coffee. The aromas will be better, and the intact bean helps preserve the freshness until you are ready to use them.
- Find a good brewing ratio (I use 16 grams of water to 1 gram of coffee), and make sure your water is hot enough (200F).
Thanks a latte, Pete!