Many congratulations are in order for Heather Perry of Coffee Klatch in San Dimas, CA: Specialty Coffee Association of America Names 2007 United States Barista Champion. Heather entered the 2007 U.S. Barista Championship as a reigning three-peat winner of the Western Regional Barista Competition (or WRBC).

Yesterday at the 2007 SCAA conference, Heather beat out the competition for America’s best barista — including 2006 USBC champ, Matt Riddle of Intelligentsia. The win marks Heather’s second national championship since last winning it in 2003. It is also likely her last victory, as she now plans to retire (at age 24!) following her upcoming appearance at the World Barista Championship in Tokyo, July 31-Aug 2, 2007.

Disclaimer time: Although I may be a subscriber to Barista Magazine, I’ve made it no secret that I’ve grown just a little fatigued by the somewhat insular and self-congratulatory hoopla surrounding what I call barista gymnastics. Too many people in the industry try to make overreaching parallels between competitive baristi and celebrity chefs — a comparison that is more flawed, and does quality coffee credibility a greater disservice, than the ever-popular wine analogy. Meanwhile, so many other quality factors leading up to a great cup of espresso are given no public face nor voice.

That said, and even if Heather hails from the Southland, she has regularly made the trek to the Western Regionals to compete and excel. So I hope I may be excused for exhibiting a little (misplaced?) local pride for her victory. Congrats, Heather! Show them how the Western Regional baristi get it done!

UPDATE: Aug. 31, 2007
Today the Press-Enterprise published a detailed interview with Heather Perry: Inland barista takes silver in world competition; her espresso wins gold | San Bernardino County | | Southern California News | News for Inland Southern California.