Welcome to Imbibe Magazine's between-issues look at liquid culture with drink recipes, news and more. From coffee to cocktails, Imbibe celebrates your world in a glass.

Monday, March 09, 2009

An Intelly Sweep

The United States Barista Championships wrapped up on Sunday with an impressive showing of skill and creativity from six finalists—four of whom happened to hail from Intelligentsia Coffee. This included first-place winner Mike Phillips (from its Chicago home base) and second-place winner Nick Griffith (from its Los Angeles outpost). Scott Lucey of Alterra Coffee took third place, Ryan Willbur of Intelligentsia took fourth, Devin Pedde of Intelligentsia took fifth and Mike Marquard of Kaldi's Coffee took sixth. We're not sure how Intelligentsia prepares its baristas for competition, but whatever they're doing obviously works, as they were remarkably composed throughout the competition. Phillips’s winning presentation was graceful and confident, finishing off with a two-part signature drink that split each espresso shot into both a hot and an ice-cold drink, meant to be sipped alternately.

Another big winner at the event was single-origin espresso. While Phillips used blends for his drinks, a surprising number of competitors opted for S.O. espresso—Griffith even used the same bean for all three rounds, a high-altitude coffee from Huehuetenango, Guatemala.

Meanwhile, the line for the “fourth machine,” where spectators could sample some of the competitors' drinks, stretched to epic proportions as people waited for single shots, cappuccinos and signature drinks. Jay Caragay of The Spro Coffee in Towson, Maryland, amused the crowd with a surprisingly good cappuccino made with milk that had been soaked in Fruity Pebbles cereal.

Phillips now goes on to represent the U.S. next month at the World Barista Championships in Atlanta, where he'll be competing against the best baristas from around the world.