Allegria Espresso Bar

Day 6 – Seattle
November 12, 2007, 11:55 pm
Filed under: Coffee, Seattle

My last real day in Seattle as I leave tomorrow afternoon. Minus the chains, I really like the coffee shops that I’ve visited. The atmosphere in each one, although different from one another, feels very pleasant and interesting. Perhaps it’s just the fact that I’m sitting in these shops after hearing about them online for so long. Or maybe it’s the fact that I’m in Seattle and there’s a light rain coating the city. Cozy is an apt word as I watch the people pass by the window.

Cliche, but true.

Before I’ve even left, I’m already looking forward to the next time I’m in this city. I’ve met some fantastic people and had a great time.

I’m quite tired by now even though I’ve been hitting my system with more coffee than usual for the past week. I think I’ll quite enjoy my own bed.

Photos soon.


Day 5 – Seattle / Day 3 – NWRBC
November 12, 2007, 1:06 am
Filed under: Competition, Seattle


The Finals


In competing order: Billy Wilson from The Albina Press, Maki Campbell from Zoka Coffee Roaster and Tea Co, Jordan Barber from the Wandering Goat, Philip Search from 49th Parallel Coffee Roasters, Orme Kellett from Lava Java, and Kevin Fuller from The Albina Press.

Billy Wilson seemed spot on. Using Stumptown’s Hairbender beans, there were no major mistakes and his shots were timed well. He chose to pull his espressos first, which he again filled the portafilter, tamped (no leveling), then set aside to “rest.” This, he said, was to preserve the cream. In the espresso, he said there was milk chocolate, citrus, and dry fruit notes. A note on the no leveling technique: according to Billy, Philip Search discovered that when using the Anfim grinders and if dosed properly, there was no need to level the espresso before tamping. Seems like quite the advancement if true. Billy’s cappuccinos were table poured and made from Sunshine dairy’s whole milk. The signature drink, of which the most surprising ingredient is blue cheese, still looked very interesting. I caught more of its description today. A creme en glaze was combined with honey and a bit of blue cheese to form the second of two spoons. The first spoon was filled espresso, chocolate, and allspice. The inspiration for this drink was a chocolate tort served alongside a blue cheese ice cream Billy once tried. Time was called at 15:00.


My camera has a great zoom. If I could only hold it steady enough for it to focus.

Maki Campbell from Zoka Coffee Roaster and Tea Co. competed well. Well-rehearsed. She used Zoka’s Paladino espresso blend that was a “harmony of taste” between chocolate, sugar, floral notes, and mint. Maki made her espresso’s first after that description followed by her cappuccinos, which were said to be “condensed richness, like melted ice cream.” Each cappuccino was given a clean heart on top. The signature drink, Onix, composed of espresso, cinnamon, nutmeg, black soy bean syrup with salt, and heavy whipping cream, looked quite delicious. Overall, Maki’s shots were good, but with a few second variations.

Jordan Barber from the Wandering Goat followed. An overall theme of apples pervaded his routine. Apples and coffee, he said, share similarities in that each variety produces distinct flavors and experiences. He began his presentation with a little signature drink preperation by combining apple cider, cinnamon, and vanilla. Like Jordan’s predecessors, he pulled his espressos first. A 3-bean blend of Guatemalan Huehuetanango, Ethiopian Harrar, and a Sumatran. He described each bean’s characteristics in detail, using up over 3 minutes of his routine. The espresso was said to taste like an “orange creamsicle” with a “buttery, fresh caramel” finish. A signature drink titled “Forbidden con Panna” was served to the judges. The apple cider mixture was added to cream and whipped. Chocolate and caramel were added to the bottom of his cups, espresso pulled directly over that, and the apple cream topped the drink. Jordan described the drink as practical and something he planned on using in the cafe. Jordan’s first few espresso pours were fine, but he had one go over the 30 second mark (31). He finished two seconds under time. 

Philip Search of 49th Parallel Coffee Roaster went Americana with his routine. Bluegrass music, jeans, and whiskey prevailed. Of course, alcohol isn’t permitted as an ingredient, and thus, Philip used much of the character of whiskey (wild sugars) to capture its essence in his signature drink. Philip was another competitor that took advantage of the Anfim’s “no level” possibilities. After all, he was the one that apparently discovered it. Philip pulled his espressos first, encouraging the judges to swirl the espresso as much of the sweetness was at the bottom of the cup. His signature drink was created in several parts. He rimmed his glasses with sugar, added ice, a cold coffee concentrate, carmelized muscovado sugar and lime that was muddled together in ice previously, and than pouring espresso over that. It looked good and Andrew Barnett drank half of his, so it couldn’t have been horrid. Intriguing at the least. His shots were a bit inconsistent, but he finished under time so that was good.


Phillip Search


Phillip preparing signature drinks at the judge’s table.

Orme Kellett from Lava Java in Ridgefield, OR competed next. He appeared quite comfortable with competition and knowledgeable about his coffee, Stumptown’s Hairbender. Unfortunately, his shots weren’t pulled within reasonable times, and that hurt him. Otherwise, though, his did very well. Pulling his espressos first, then his cappuccinos, he seemed in control at all times, finishing at 15:00. His signature, Goldfinch, looked great. Egg inspired, it was composed of mango juiced right on stage, honey, sesame seeds, and cream.


Orme Kellett                 


Orme’s signature drink with a hallowed out egg on top.

The final competitor was Kevin Fuller of The Albina Press. Out of all the competitors, he was the only one to make his cappuccinos first. Does that matter? Maybe. Shots were pulled well, in time, and with relative ease. His signature drink was “ironic for a million different reasons.” It was essentially a caramel macchiato. Fresh-squeezed tangerine and homemade caramel were placed on the bottom of the cups with espresso pulled over top. He then added steamed whole milk. Andrew Barnett, a sensory judge, must have liked it as he drank it all in two swallows, giving Brent Fortune, the Head Judge, an “oh well, it was too good to leave any for you” look when he came over to try it.


Kevin Fuller introducing himself as he pours water for the judges.

After watching the day’s finalists compete, I suspected the Billy, Maki, and Kevin were the top three, actually in that order, Billy winning for the second year in a row. And that was how it turned out after all the scores were tallied.


Billy Wilson – 2007 Northwest Regional Barista Champion.

Day 4 – Seattle / Day 2 – NWRBC
November 12, 2007, 12:12 am
Filed under: Competition, Seattle

I ended my last post by commenting on the fact that Hoffmann is being naturally emmulated in competitions now. His reach is much farther I’m afraid. Now, Latte Art Throwdowns are essentially Latte Art Absurd Throwdowns. People are pouring latte art in everything. Shoes, bags, Clover machines (it was broken to begin with). Absolutely absurd, absolutely nuts. Look what you’ve started Mr. James Hoffmann.

Anyway, the competition, day 2. There are seven remaning first-round competitors. Of which, I should choose three to advance to the finals since there will be 6 finalists and I chose three yesterday. (well, of course, I’m writing this after the Finals have already occurred and know that my choices from day 2 are/were completely wrong). I expected Brigida Jones of Lava Java, Brett Walker of Zoka, and Rob Ward to advance. None did. Their performances looked good and no shots were out of line. Apparently there was something in the sensory evaluations that trumped that though.


My pick, Brigida Jones of Lava Java, to make it to the finals. I was wrong.


Interesting designed cups. 

Jordan Barber of the Wandering Goat, Kevin Fuller of The Albina Press, and Phillip Search from 49th Parallel made it on to the next round.

Dismas Smith, the 2002 US barista champion, competed and was forced to compete with a runny nose, which he blew into one of his towels during his performance time. Strange, but necessary, as he said it was either that or let it run. A little further into his routine, I think he dropped his tamper. I was watching something else at that moment and when I turned back, he was wiping it off and commenting about how he hadn’t thought to bring another tamper. So with the idea that the tamper had fallen onto the floor in my mind, I couldn’t help but laugh when I thought Dismas described his espresso as having “carrot dirt” in it. I had a stupid grin on my face until I realized he had said character. An enjoyable competitor to watch.


Dismas hesitates to push the start button.



Dismas’ signature drink.

After watching two days worth of competitors, I’ve seen the air conditioning problem many are talking about. There’s a strong current running through the area, and it’s actually blowing the streams of espresso to the side causing it to fall onto the edges of cups and create and overall difficult situation.

Day 3 – Seattle / Day 1 – Northwest Regional Barista Competition
November 9, 2007, 8:52 pm
Filed under: Competition, Seattle

First day of CoffeeFest, and I spent nearly the entire time watching the NWRBC. 12:00 PM until 4:30 PM? Something like that. There were eleven competitors today, some first-timers, others well experienced, one current NWRBC champ (Billy Wilson), and another a former USBC champ (Bronwen Serna).


Tracy Allen among the judges.

Again, I have plenty of photos, but nothing uploaded. So sorry. Anyway, I think I saw three certain finalists today. Billy Wilson from The Albina Press, Maki Campbell from Zoka, and Orme Kellett from Lava Java. Before I go further, I want to say that I am typing names as I heard them from Nick, so they’re not necessarily spelled correctly. Correct me if I’m wrong anywhere. But Billy and Maki did well. No idea how their drinks tasted, but they looked like finals material. Billy did many curious things during his presentation. A blue cheese signature drink for instance. More on that later. He used Hairbender for his coffee, explaining that it’s a 6-bean blend of Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Sumatra, and another I didn’t catch. Using an Anfim grinder with a timer mod, Billy didn’t level his espresso as the grinder apparently doses it in such a way that one only need to tamp and lock the portafilter in place. I’m sceptical, but he said he’s seen no difference between that and leveling. After locking the pf in place, he let it set for a few moments before beginning the extraction, saying that Hairbender behaves better with a slight rest. Signature drink…a blue cheese mixture presented in a spoon alongside a chocolate, espresso, and allspice mixture on another. The judges were instructed to consume the blue cheese last. I was sitting too far away from Billy during his presentation so I couldn’t see the judges reactions, if any, to this drink.(?) Calling time at 15:00 exactly, Billy seemed pleased with his performance. It was clear he had done this before.

Maki (it’s killing me that I’m not sure that’s how you spell her name) was well-rehearsed and professional. Being from Zoka, she naturally used their Paladino blend. Beautiful hearts topped her cappuccinos. Mika’s signature drink was called Onix, a drink that I missed too many of the ingredients to even bother listing the two that I did get (sea salt and heavy cream). She called time at 15:03 but the competition’s not tight enough to make me think that will matter.


Maki wiping off the drip tray.

Orme finished his run at 14:55. Using a 6 bean blend, he created his espresso and capps without much trouble. I noticed that he filled his cups with hot water (to preheat I’m guessing) prior to pulling his shots. Once his pf was locked in, he dumped the water and set the cups in place. I can’t imagine that all the water was really dumped though. There had to be a small amount, but enough to effect the espresso? Hard to see, so I’ll leave that up to the judges. If there wasn’t any problem with that, I think he’ll be competing on Sunday. His sig drink looked great. Egg inspired, mango, honey with sesame seed, and cream mixture. Hard to describe without my photos, but it looked good. And bringing a juicer on stage to get the mango in line was nice. We’ll see if my predictions are correct later.


Atop the espresso machine sits fresh mango juice in their signature cups.

Other observations: the first competitor of the day, John Lucas, had to call a technical timeout as his espresso wasn’t pulling quite right. He initially blamed it on the espresso machine, but it turned out to be his espresso grinder. Thus, he had to ditch that and make his espressos with his cappuccino beans.

Many competitors went over time today. 5 of 11. Bronwen Serna lost track of time and went over by 1:28. She did well otherwise. Very comfortable and clearly excited to be competiting after a few years hiatus. She brought out a bunsen burner and make Turkish coffee for her sig drink. Well, not just Turkish coffee, but that was the primary component. She took so much time talking with the judges that time slipped by. Oops. But she was still all smiles afterward. She said she’ll be at the USBC anyway.


Bronwen smiling once finishing…


even though she went well over the 15 minute mark.

A couple competitors repulled shots after letting them go for well near 40 seconds. Oops again. There were no “Hoffmann-esque” spills, thankfully. I can kid about Hoffmann spilling because he’s now the world champ. He’s over it. I’m sure. I hope. So no spills, no breaks, nothing really terrible. One competitor even used a song Hoffmann used in his WBC performance and another used his “pouring the capps at the judges table” technique. He’s being emulated the world around. And that’s that.

Day 2 – Seattle
November 8, 2007, 10:13 pm
Filed under: Coffee, Seattle

One really has to watch one’s caffeine intake here lest it get out of hand. Six shops, four espressos (two of which were doppios) plus a COE coffee and a coffee cupping all before the clock struck noon. I had to “curb the enthusiasm” by then and took the rest of the day to relax. But I am having so much fun. Meeting really nice people and trying good coffee. And, of course, learning whatever I can about coffee.

 I met David Schomer of Espresso Vivace and had a great time in his Denny Way Roasteria. He pulled me a shot that had a nice, caramelly sweetness to it. And I couldn’t leave without buying one of his newly made 20th anniversary cups. It’ll be a nice memento. I have to be careful with such cups though. I can imagine buying one at every place I stop and turning that one souvenir into many souvenirs that look gaudy.


Espresso Vivace

What else? A cupping was held at Stumptown’s new place. Stopped in for a shot at Victrola and tried some of their new Rwanda coffee. And wandered all over Capitol Hill. Tomorrow’s CoffeeFest and the Northwest Regional Barista Comp so much more to come.

Day 1 – Seattle
November 8, 2007, 10:35 am
Filed under: Coffee, Seattle

Got into Seattle yesterday around 5:00PM. The flight wasn’t any good as all the cliches about cramped spaces and annoying passengers held true. And then, when I went to pick up my rental car from National, they tried to charge me twice what I was quoted from my online reservation. I cancelled that and looked for other means of transportation. Still, these early troubles are more than worth it to be in Seattle once again.

I’m visiting for six days with CoffeeFest occuring right in the middle of my stay. Should be fun. The Northwest Reional Barista Competition is being held in conjunction with CoffeeFest, and I hope to see as much of that as I can.

Stopped at Zoka on 56th and had a delicious shot. Caramel, chocolate, and a butteriness in the finish. No pictures as I didn’t have my camera with me at the time, but you can trust me that it looked great. Well worth the price. Had to make sure to go back and drop a tip in for the guys behind the bar.

Only had time for that one stop on Day 1 as I was also starving and spent the rest of the night eating quality Mexican fare. Tomorrow I shall explore…