And the winner is…

The Charlotte Observer posted an article today covering the final rounds of the 2006 U.S. Barista Championship, held yesterday on the final day of the annual SCAA conference: Charlotte Observer | 04/11/2006 | Coffee artists grind toward national title.

For all those who scratched their head thinking, “A quality coffee conference … in North Carolina?!,” it should come as little surprise that no Carolinas baristas made it to the finals round on Monday. However, three of the seven finalists came from one of my favorites in the U.S.: Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea in Chicago. Bay Area coffee drinkers may recognize Intelligentsia Coffee as the bean supplier to Specialty’s Cafe & Bakery. However, the difference in espresso preparation and equipment between Specialty’s and Intelligentsia is like night and day.

Matthew Riddle, a graphic designer and barista at Intelligentsia, was ultimately selected as the 2006 U.S. Barista champion at Monday’s finals. Matthew’s fabulous cash and prizes included a $1,000 check and a trip to the World Barista Championship in Berne, Switzerland.

Also included in the article is a photo of local coffee luminary, Andrew Barnett, owner/roaster of Santa Rosa’s Ecco Caffé and judge at the 2006 USBC. (Andrew also served as a judge at the recent Western Regional Barista Competition.) You can check out more photos of the competition at the Charlotte Observer photo gallery.