Java Enabled Previews the Midwest Regional Barista Competition

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"It's like Iron Chef with baristas making coffee drinks."

That's how Josh Ferguson, owner of Kaldi's Coffee Roasting Company, describes the Midwest Regional Barista Competition. The competition gathers the best baristas from Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota to compete and share the latest in coffee.

"It brings people together to showcase their talents and come together with a community who want to raise the level of specialty coffee," Ferguson says.

The event, held at the Soulard Preservation Hall at 1921 South 9th Street, is free and open to the public. The competition starts Friday afternoon at 1 p.m. The event continues Saturday, with the finals Sunday. Twenty contestants will be in St. Louis to compete for the event's top honors. Winners go on to the 2010 national competition in Anaheim, California, in April.

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Kaldi's Mike Marquard competes in the 2009 Midwest Regional Barista Competition
Photo courtesy Samantha Watts Marquard
The competition provides each contestant with espresso machines, as each has to be calibrated to ensure an even playing field. The rest of the competition is "BYOB." Contestants usually bring their own grinders and their own coffee. The quality of the coffee is also judged in the competition.

Each contestant has fifteen minutes to make four espressos, four classic cappuccinos and four "signature drinks." The first two categories should be pretty obvious, but signature drink could be, well, almost anything. The drink has to contain at least one shot of espresso and must have a predominantly "coffee" taste to it.

"The idea is to pair unique ingredients with the coffee. The drinks are scored on creativity," Ferguson explains. In the 2009 competition, Kaldi's Mike Marquard's signature drink was a caramel tobacco smoked espresso. The signature presentations are closely in tune with recent trends in the coffee industry so that, as Ferguson describes it, "even veteran baristas will be pushing the envelope."


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