I have never been to a Barista Jam before. I had twice in the past made lame attempts (more like wishful musings) at beginning to organize one for the Triangle area in North Carolina. Too much work, money, confusion, paper work. Troy Reynard of Cosmic Cup had done it twice now, so Cheers to you Troy! Great job! Gerra Harrigan of New Harvest Coffee in Providence was our fabulous co-host, and her tireless efforts was rewarded with a room at the B&B with a jacuzzi.
The Bank Street Annex is so well suited for the event. They have lots of electricity, space, a big kitchen, and a big square table cloth served as a make-shift screen for Peter Giuliano’s slide show for a talk on sustainability. There is even an old timey vault door, although for safety reasons that were not immediately apparent to me, the back wall of the vault opened up to the hallway.
First day- Easing into it
I picked up Peter G. in Center City Philadelphia and we stopped by Spruce Street Espresso, my new account which just opened, and we ran into Aaron Ultimo, also on his way to the Jam. After some delicious shots, we drove out to Easton and went into the Annex. Some equipment installation ensued, three GB-5 2-groups, and one GB-5 3 group, a hot water tower and bulk grinder, and ultimately there was also 3 Mazzer grinders, 3 Compak grinders and one Anfim with Search mod. Later on as participants showed up there was some open play time on the machines, Jon Lewis’s “I am your Espresso, Let it Flow” keynote speech/performance, and Peter’s slide show. Troy gave out plastic medals and a trophy to Rich Westerfield for winning the spro down. Over 30 of the best Baristas in the Mid Atlantic pulled shots of the New Harvest Espresso, which featured some Africans in the blend. Some were thrown off by the brightness, trying to pull short ristrettos, but the finalists and the winner pull longer shots. The judges say that the longer shots showcased the sweetness and cleaned up the aftertaste. It just goes to show you can’t apply one standard to all coffees, you have to bend when the wind blows.
The crowd gathered for coffee and conversation on the first night.
Day two- The Madhouse
Baristas started showing up in the morning and by the time it was open Jam time on the machines it was a mad house. Each of three machines downstairs had a crowd of people pulling shots, pouring art, checking out the Pacific Soy and the Hemp Milk, and just going at it like cowboys and rancher women. James Hoffmann and Anette Moldvaer had come in the night before (for Cheese Steaks) and James was upstairs teaching his extraction class. Chris Deferio later taught latte art, Jay Caragay had another class downstairs, and it was just insane. John Hornall wanted more temperature, Erin McCarthy wanted more steam preasure, I wanted time with the Anfim. The day ran long as two latte art throwdowns occured, one with whole milk and one sponsored by Pacific with their awesome texturising soy. All entry fees went to Bikes To Rwanda. Jon Lewis was victor of both, earning him two plastic trophies. Beers came later at Troy’s favorite tavern, and at the point that I headed back to the hotel, there was a group of Baristas getting ready to take the stage for the pub’s open mic night. I don’t know how that went.
The Jam was a beehive of Baristas.
Day 3- Over stuffed
Ellie Matuzak lead a class on tips for the competing Barista, and I got the impession there were some contenders in the audience. She has been around the competition block a couple of times, and gave some real insightful advice, the type of which I wish someone had shared with me before my fiasco performance. We then set up a cupping with 66 rock glasses. I said 66. There was a Columbian Cauca from Counter Culture, Sumatra Gayoland from New Harvest, and Yemen Sanani from Bumper Crop. All were fabulous coffees, and each was very distinct with it’s own characteristics of origin and processing. We were prepared to set ’em up again if the crowd was big enough. As it was though, there was enough for everyone to break a crust who wanted to break a crust. After the break down, and I will spare you the details, we were all starving. Jay Caragay shows up holding a menu for a South American restaurant, and he wants Troy to show us how to get there. Dary Berlin says, “if you want good food, follow Jay”, so we did. We asked the chef to make us some kink of appetizer, and a main course that he felt best exemplified his restaurant. I am still full. Jay might eat like this all the time, but for me it was a meal I will remember for a long time. It was just magnificent.
My introduction to Ceviche was followed by this huge plate of South American cuisine.
Jon Lewis, keynote speaker, prepares a portafilter with a steady and sure hand.
I can’t wait till next year.