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Feb 24, 2018
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Kaldi’s does California

April 13th 12:04pm, 2010

041310_baristachampThey’ll be jetting to the West Coast later this week to compete in the United States Barista Championship. In a sense, though, Kaldi’s Coffee’s Mike Marquard, Joe Marrocco and Micah Svejda began that journey months ago.

Last October, all three baristas placed in the Midwest regional competition held by the Specialty Coffee Association of America, the sponsor of this week’s event. And since February, they’ve spent 20 to 30 hours weekly prepping for the championship, which runs from Thursday to Sunday, April 15 to 18, in Anaheim, Calif.

That preparation has focused on mind-boggling drills – one of which we witnessed on a recent visit to the Kaldi’s roasting plant in the Forest Park Southeast neighborhood. There, under his co-workers’ scrutiny, Svejda staged a mock 15-minute presentation that he’s been refining for some time. It included a brief history of the coffee he was using, a description of the coffee itself and service at a carefully and artfully arranged table in the roasting plant.

“I went through many different versions of [the presentation] – I think this is like the seventh version,” Svejda noted. “If you practice it enough like we try to do, you get so that every movement you do is sort of scripted, so that there is a certain order. So at this time, I’ll turn around and talk to the judges, then I’ll turn around and pour my milk, then the next step’s to go to the grinder. So you have your whole routine planned out like that.”

Evaluating the contestants in Anaheim will be seven judges – four sensory judges, two technical judges and a head judge. They’ll assess each presentation in several categories, on an 870-point scale. Sensory criteria will include visual correctness, taste balance and tactile balance; technical criteria will include consistent dosing and tamping, station management and general hygiene.

Flanked by the technical judges, a barista will make an espresso, a cappuccino and a signature drink for each sensory judge. “The signature drinks have to have espresso – they can’t have alcohol, but that’s pretty much it,” Marquard said. “And those, I think, are where people get really excited. Because people walk in thinking they’re going to see a mocha and a caramel latte and a turtle latte, but what you’re seeing is people using thyme and lemongrass and lobster …”

The USBC’s Web site will be streaming the event live with an accompanying chat room, incidentally, so St. Louisans will be able to watch the Kaldi’s trio compete. Svejda and Marrocco will do so in the first round on Thursday at 4:38 and 6:32 p.m. CDT, respectively. Marquard, whose first place in the regional competition automatically qualified him as a semifinalist in the championship, will compete Saturday at a time yet to be set.

By Bryan A. Hollerbach

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One Response to “Kaldi’s does California”

  1. admin Says:
    April 16th, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    A QUICK UPDATE: “Joe and Micah did very well,” Tyler Zimmer from Kaldi’s told us this morning. “The rest of the first round concludes today.” He also noted that semifinalists will be named at 6 p.m. today … so keep your fingers crossed for the hometown dudes!

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