Is there anything the The Huffington Post won’t publish these days? Fortunately, this includes one of the better summaries of the US Barista Championship, completed yesterday: Todd Burbo: Intelligentsia Wins National Title, then Throws it Back. Congratulations are in order for Mike Phillips of Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea in Chicago, now the winner for two years running.
The article was written by Todd Burbo, himself the Director of Coffee at Intelligentsia‘s Monadnock location in downtown Chicago. But don’t mistake it for an Intelligentsia cheerleader piece, even if Intelligentsia baristas claimed half of the top six finalist spots at this year’s competition — a not uncommon occurrence, and a frequent source of competitive grumbling. The last part of the article deals with Intelligentsia’s internal decision to field no one in the 2011 competition.
Despite the shortcomings of the barista competition format, and professional coffee’s curious promotion of the Cult of the Barista, barista competitions are one of the best public celebrations of coffee knowledge, skill, and enjoyment. And full credit goes to the Intelligentsia team for figuring out what the judges want, as they have it down in spades. We can’t blame them for wanting to move on.
But while the SCAA heavily promotes the USBC as a kind of ultimate chef’s competition for the coffee world, you also have to remember that two-time champion Mike Phillips has only been a barista for just two years [pdf, 173k]. You could say he’s a boy genius, but this is not all that unusual for what is essentially an entry level position among coffee pros. Meanwhile, for comparison, it takes a budding sushi chef a good 7-8 years just to first learn how to make sushi rice properly. What do you do next when you’ve mastered your craft in the second year on the job?
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