Some of the most talented coffee makers in the western United States will be going head-to-head this week for a chance to compete at the U.S. Barista Championship. Erica Koenig of Chico will be representing the north state and putting her skills to the test at a regional competition in Santa Cruz. Koenig has been making coffee for 10 years and has a deep passion for her craft. She's competed in barista competitions before, but nothing like what she's about to face. On Friday, Koenig will be going up against 32 other baristas from 7 different states. If she does well there then it's on to the national championships in Boston next month.
"Our region is specifically known for great baristas and great competitors. So I'm going up against some of the more famous names in the coffee industry and that kind of scares me, but I'm really confident," she says.
Competitors are required to make an espresso, a cappuccino and a signature drink of their choice. A panel of 6 judges will score the baristas on everything from their presentation and technique, to the taste and quality of the drink. Koenig says some areas of competition have been harder to prepare for than others.
"They're judging on temperature, on milk foam texture. So a lot of it is subjective. That's been the hardest part is to find that middle ground where everyone can agree it's a good cappuccino," she says.
Koenig comes from a farming background and will be tying that into her presentation at the regional competition. Being the only competitor from the north state, Koenig chose to use a special homemade ingredient in her signature drink that she hopes will win the judges over. If Koenig moves on to the national competition and wins she'll get to be on the cover of Barista Magazine and earn a spot in the World Barista Championships being held in Australia in May. Koenig will also be representing local coffee distributor Six Degrees in the competition for the first time.
If you'd like to see a live stream of the event go to newslinks.