I recently returned from another Coffee Fest Seattle weekend, taking along two of our baristas, Chad and Daniel. These tradeshows are a great way for us to connect with peers in industry, along with our importers and other vendors. The friendly, yet serious, competitions that take place are a blast to take part in as well.
America's Best Espresso competition selects 32 of the western region and Canada''s best roasters to compete in a head-to-head, single elimination tournament. Each roaster supplies their blend and a barista that pulls 3 shots of espresso for a carefully selected panel of judges. We used our Headwall Espresso Blend, after refining it somewhat by tweaking the components. The judges gave us detailed and high praise for the espresso's flavor, complexity, and body. We ended up losing a close matchup to 2nd place winner Kuma Coffee, making it to the Top Eight overall. We were proud to have gotten further than any other roaster from the Inland Northwest, fairing very well against established teams in places like Seattle and Portland. With the feedback received, we will continue to develop our house espresso blend in hopes of taking home 1st place honors next year!
Both Chad and Daniel also made it into the World Latte Art Championship. This is a big deal with seemingly half the contestants flying in from Japan for the event, each with their personalized steaming pitchers and cups. (Sounds like a Will Farrell comedy in the making- Rock Star Barista!) This was Chad's first entry into one of these events, so it was a success just fighting the nerves in front of hundreds of people watching. Daniel did a great pour but lost a close one to to the eventual finalist. Visions Espresso hosted another latte art competition, with the best pours I've ever seen. Daniel ended up winning four rounds, losing to the winner. It was cool also to see our friend Jeremy from Revel 77 in Spokane take 3rd place overall.
I had the privilege of being a judge for the Best Coffee House competition. Teams from some fantastic cafes setup a simulated cafe experience, complete with a menu and signature drinks. We were asked to judge from a customer's standpoint on service, drink quality, presentation, and other factors. What a great time, and a wonderful way to get ideas for our own cafe! Congrats to Slate Coffee in Seattle for taking 1st place!
One of our favorite parts of traveling to these events is doing our own coffee crawl to the best cafes in the city. We got over-caffeinatted at Cafe Lladro, Tougo Coffee, Neptune Coffee, Milstead & Co, and Slate Coffee, among others. We also stopped in at Cafe Abodegas, our wholesale partners who are doing a great job with both coffee and food, having just opened a 2nd location.