Best Western: California baristas dominate Southwest regional
Posted: Mar 15, 2012
The Golden State was certainly shining bright at the 2012 Southwest Regional Barista Competition, where California baristas Jared Truby and John Martin took home the top prizes in the barista competition and Brewers Cup, respectively.
Though the Southwest region is composed of seven states, all six finalists in both contests hailed from California, and the winners represented each half of the state: Truby works at Santa Cruz-based Verve Coffee, while Martin is a barista at Intelligentsia Coffee’s Pasadena café.
The event—which took place March 9-11 in Santa Cruz—was especially exciting for Truby, as it allowed the barista to win on his home turf. He accomplished the feat with a routine focused on the idea that every coffee has its own individual character. “I feel like because coffee is a fruit, there’s no way for it to be exactly the same every time, and that’s exactly why we love it so much,” he says. “It’s complex, and it’s a different story every time you drink it.”
He illustrated the point with Finale de Cosecha, a honey-processed coffee from Costa Rica’s West Valley. The name fittingly translates to “end of the harvest,” as the coffee was the last thing picked during the harvest season. “Colby Barr, our green buyer, came up with that idea because he grew up on a pear farm, and his favorite pears were always the ones that were left on the tree after harvest season,” Truby says. He adds that the additional time gave the coffee a unique flavor. “It’s the longest possible maturation time, so it has the most complexity and the most sweetness,” he says. And while baristas often use several coffees in competition, Truby opted for simplicity by sticking with the same beans for all three drinks. “Each coffee has so much to give that we don’t need to go out beyond it,” he says. “Let it represent itself.”
Rounding out the top three were Charles Babinski of Intelligentsia in second and Verve’s Lizzy Sampson in third.
On the Brewers Cup side, Martin was somewhat of a surprise winner, as he signed up only eight days before the competition. Though he competed in the regional and national competitions of last year’s Brewers Cup, he planned to enter the barista competition this year. “I was practicing for that, and I was all set on doing that,” he says. “However, it filled up completely.”
Without much time to prepare for the Brewers Cup, Martin chose a Kalita Wave pour-over as his brewing method because he was well acquainted with it. “I had started playing around with it at home and I just loved the brews I was getting out of it,” he says. For his coffee, Martin selected Takesi Bolivia—the same beans his colleague Babinski used in the barista competition. Takesi Bolivia is the world’s highest-elevation coffee, grown at 7,200 to 8,500 feet. “They don’t produce much because it’s so high,” Martin says. “But the quality’s just really good so they continue doing it.” And what did it taste like? “It was just super sweet and super juicy,” Martin says. “It topped any of the other coffees that I had been trying.”
Martin was followed by second-place finisher Alexandra Littlejohn from Costa Mesa’s Cafecito Organico and Andrew Villa of Bellano in Santa Clara’s.
Truby and Martin will move on to the national versions of their respective competitions at the United States Barista Championship, to be held April 19-22 in Portland, Ore.