Meet Portland's New Barista Champion

A few weeks back, we profiled local coffee bar and roaster Coava Coffee, which has been grabbing the attention of the coffee world with its innovative brewing methods. This week, the company is making headlines for another reason: it just won both the Northwest Regional Barista Competition and Brewers Cup, which were held in Tacoma, WA, on the weekend.

Also making the trip to throw down for Portland were baristas from Stumptown, Cellar Door, Barista, Water Avenue, Public Domain, Albina Press and Sterling.
In the Brewers Cup—a new competition for brewed coffee based almost entirely on taste—Coava's Devin Chapman took first place using the company's new full-immersion brewer, besting a Seattle barista with a Hario V-60 and an Olympian wielding a Clever Coffee Dripper.
In the Barista Competition, his colleague Sam Purvis scored the win, narrowly beating out Stumptown's Ryan Wilbur by half-a-point in the finals, using the roaster's Guatemalan Xeucalvitz beans.
We rudely interrupted Purvis's first shift back behind the bar today to quiz him about the high-octane world of competitive coffee making.
WW: So how does it all work?
Sam Purvis: The competition is a structured time of 15 minutes where you choose a coffee that you're going to make for the judges, four sensory judges and then you're also judged by two additional judges on your work at the espresso bar. You serve four espressos to the judges, four cappuccinos and then you also have to take the coffee and integrate it into a signature beverage that's very synergistic with the coffee itself. So you have everything from like food gastronomy to cocktailing.
What was your signature beverage?
50g of water was infused with dried raspberries and goji berries. The water was infused for three minutes. And then that water was pressed out over 70% dark chocolate to melt it down. Milk was added and it was brought up to temperature and textured and then mixed with the coffee and dusted with dried raspberries. When we first dipped into [the coffee], it had a lot of raspberry and chocolate and goji berry, so throughout the drink you've got all those flavors that were put on display and accentuated both by the presence of the coffee and by the ingredients of the drink.
How do you train and prepare for something like that?
Competition is very specific. The judges are looking for what's perceived to be balanced in a coffee, you're scored really highly on that. Basically I had months and months of tasting different coffees and finding the one that's going to score well and then building a presentation around the coffee. You get scored very intensively too on the theme of your presentation.
So what I chose to talk about during my 15 minutes was the idea of quality, which I defined as five aspects: body, sweetness, structure, intensity and clarity. Each of those things were broken down and discussed by drink … and all those things were tied in with the contributors that happened at the farm.

What about the Brewers Cup? I know you guys used Coava’s new Funnel brewer and Kone filter. That must have been pretty big vindication, going up against Chemex and Hario and Clever brewers.
Is there a lot of competitiveness and rivalries?
So there’s no sledging? You’re not yelling, “Your latte tastes like Maxwell House!”?
What was the best coffee there—other than your own?
What’s the point of competing against other baristas? Is it just to make a name for yourself?
So you and Devin are now headed up to Houston for the national finals in April. How are you going to prepare represent Portland against the best in the country? How are you going to dazzle them?
OK, we’ll grant you two weeks before bringing the weight of Portland’s hopes and dreams and expectations down on you.

WWeek 2015

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