These fine folks prepare your coffee for you everyday, they grind your beans, they teach you everything you should know about coffee. This weekend, though, in Chicago’s Ravenswood neighborhood, you can watch them duke it out for the crown of the Big Central Barista Championship.
The event, which is being jointly sponsored by Intelligentsia Coffee, Counter Culture Coffee, and Alterra Coffee Roasters, will take March 23-25, from 11am-5pm daily at the Ravenswood Event Center (4011 N. Ravenswood) and is free and open to the public.
Baristas from 16 states in two regions, North Central and South Central, will converge on Chicago seeking the title in two competitions: the Barista Competition and the Brewers Cup. For the former, baristas will have to prepare and serve four espressos, four cappuccinos and four original signature drinks of their own creation ⎯ all within a 15-minute timeframe—to judges. After serving the judges, the competitors will move to a coffee bar to give the public the chance to taste the coffee they just served to judges.
The Brewers Cup challenges the art of manual coffee brewing. Here, competitors will all brew from the same batch of coffee and be judged on taste. Next, finalists move on to then be judged on both taste and presentation.
Winners in both competitions, who will be named late Sunday afternoon, will move on to compete in the United States Barista Championship in Portland, Oregon, this April. Those winners will compete in the 2012 World Barista Championship in Vienna, Austria from June 12 to 15.
I’ve got some friends and a lot of hometown folks from some of my favorite cafes competing in this event, and I wish them all the very best of luck! Here are just a few of the competitors that I’ll be cheering for: