We’re more than a bit late with the news here, but a hearty and well-deserved congratulations to Kyle Glanville of LA’s Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea for winning the 2008 U.S. Barista Championship (USBC): 2008 US Barista Champion « The Official 2008 SCAA Conference Blog.

Proving the West is Best, and giving us some minor trash-talking rights, five of the six finalists all hailed from our own backyard Western Regional Barista Competition. Booyah.

Could we get any further away from Minneapolis? Please?

We weren’t exactly glued to our monitors for the blow-by-blow updates of the USBC as some have. Part of that is being in India, where everything is 12½-hours ahead of Pacific Time (yes, there is an extra 30 minutes in there). But a bigger part reflects the forced spectacle of barista competitions in addition to the overall SCAA conference spectacle itself.

The redeeming qualities of the SCAA conference include a number of interesting presentations and topics of discussion, elements the USBC, and the Roasters Guild Coffee of the Year Competition. But there are also big sponsorships by the irrelevant likes of Krups and Da Vinci Gourmet syrups (never trust a product that has “gourmet” in its name), soapbox political causes that have been uniquely attracted to coffee like flies to a bug lamp, and featured or “award-winning” irrelevant products — such as java jackets (just say no to paper cups), the 2008 PR onslaught of the Handpresso (wow, now we can drink crap pod coffee on the go!), and the exhumed resurgence of a PR onslaught for “Red Espresso” (which is no more “espresso” than if I put orange pulp in my espresso machine and called it “Orange Espresso”) after a two year hiatus.

In short: many of the things about the coffee industry I really don’t like and wish would go away. If this is the promise of the so-called “Third Wave” as advertised on the SCAA conference Web site, please drown me now in the undertow.