Every year, the U.S. Coffee Championships is put on by the Specialty Coffee Association, a non-profit organization that represents thousands of coffee professionals, from producers to baristas, all over the world.
This U.S. Coffee Championships is an event “where coffee professionals throughout the country push each other forward in the areas of skill and service.”
There are two types of events that take place around the country leading up to the U.S. Coffee Championships — the Preliminaries, which have just concluded, and two Qualifying Competitions (called CoffeeChamps). There are four types of competitions at each qualifying event: a Brewer’s Cup, a Barista Competition, Cup Tasters, and a Roaster Competition. The Qualifying Events will take place on December 9th in Reno, NV and February 3rd in New Orleans, Louisiana.
There are 60 competitors at each Qualifying Competition. 36 top competitors move forward to the U.S. Coffee Championships, in Seattle, WA from April 20–22, 2018. More information on each event can be found on the U.S. Coffee Championships website.
This past September, our Manager of Retail Operations, Cruz Conrad, and Head Barista, Maksym Khaliziev, competed in the U.S. Brewers Cup, the preliminary event which highlights and celebrates the art of manual brewing, at the Buckman Coffee Factory in Portland, Oregon.
The competitors of the U.S. Brewers Cup performed three services: Compulsory, Open Service, and Audience Service. Compulsory and Open Service are judged by skilled coffee tasters. The Compulsory is a blind tasting, the competitors all brewed the same coffee on their chosen manual devices. During Open Service competitors brewed and presented their chosen coffee to the judges panel.
Cruz explained his philosophy going into the competition: “[It] was pretty simple: keep the humanity in coffee. It was just another day at the shop when I walked up and spoke and brewed. I feel as if too often in the coffee industry we lose ourselves in the science aspects of the craft and lose track of the experience and atmosphere. You trade excitement and sincerity for hard knowledge and rigid factuality. I just wanted to brew the best cup I could and share what made it awesome to me and hope that they [judges] felt the same way.”
Cruz’s brewing skill and sincerity stood out to the judges, and he placed 2nd at the U.S. Brewers Cup preliminary event.
The top 4 winners at the U.S. Brewers Cup Preliminaries were:
- Zach Perkins of Water Avenue Coffee in Portland
- Cruz Conrad of Pachamama Coffee Cooperative in Sacramento
- Joe Yang of Case Study Coffee in Portland
- Kelly Hill of Temple Coffee in Sacramento
It is exciting that two baristas from Sacramento made it to the top 4 (great job, Kelly!).
Because he placed top 4, Cruz will advance forward and compete this Saturday, December 9th, at the U.S. Coffee Championships Qualifying event in Reno, NV with the chance to move on to the 2018 U.S. Coffee Championships in Seattle.
He’s a man with passion, skill, and a lot of dedication to the art and craft of coffee.
“Normally, a few days ahead of competition I am a nervous wreck. I’m worried about every little detail. ‘Did I prepare correctly? Will I fumble in my performance? Did I choose the right coffee? Are my parameters where they need to be? Will what I have to say resonate with the judges?’ The questions and self doubt cycle can be endless. This time it’s different. I’m cautiously even eager to get out there and share a story. I’m not certain ultimately why this time it’s different but it is. Maybe that anxiety will pick up as I show up to the convention center, but right now, there’s peace. There’s a sense of: ‘It’s going to be fine.’ I dare say: ‘I think I’m about to have some fun with this.’”
We know he’s going to have fun with it. Good luck to Cruz and the rest of the competitors this weekend.