If you are looking for cream, sugar or fancy a Frappuccino, the Big Western Regional Coffee Championship is not the place for you. It’s not for the faint of heart but for those who like to consume caffeine in black copious amounts. The Big Western is not a hobby but a way of life for these baristas, brewers and coffee connoisseurs. The Nitro Cold brew from Klatch Coffee was one of the best treats on tap at the event. The medium roast espresso has an assortment of blended beans from Brazil, Sumatra and Ethiopia. The malty cold brew has the texture of a beer but with the flavor of coffee with hints of orange, caramel and berry.
The Big Western hosted in Downtown Los Angeles brings coffee culture to the heart of LA, rounding up the best of the West with one common interest—coffee. The Big Western is like the Super Bowl of coffee. For the big game, it was the Seahawks vs. the Broncos, but for The Big Western, it’s your favorite local coffee shops versing each other with much more competition than this year’s game, that’s for sure.
Baristas competed in categories for best latte art, the brewer’s cup for best overall coffee and the barista competition (mastering the art of espresso, cappuccinos and challenging competitors to create their own signature beverage) to present to the table of attentive judges. Visual presentation, functionality and creativity are factors that will land you a high score, along with the other coffee factors of crema, taste balance, flavor from sweet to bitter and tactile aspects of the coffee body. If that isn’t enough, baristas have to deliver synergy and explain every step of the process from preparation to completion. Fifteen minutes is all the time competitors have to complete the assortment of beverages, all while pleasing the table of judges. The last factor that is included in the score is technical aspects such as consistent dosing and tamping, extraction time of espresso and overall cleanliness.
A cheering crowd welcomed Truman Severson, last year’s national competitor. This is Severson’s third year competing at the coffee competition, and although he didn’t place this time around, he most certainly delivered—not only in his coffee but also in his story telling delivery of a Japanese philosophy. Wabi-sabi is a Japanese worldview that art, beauty and taste is imperfect and incomplete. It natures that nothing lasts, nothing is finished and nothing is perfect, just like coffee there is beauty in the imperfection. Severson ended his Japanese philosophy as he topped off his signature espresso drink with a fruit mist from a baby humidifier. He can be found at Portola Coffee Lab brewing up some of the most out of the box coffee concoctions. Portola is one of the main sponsors for the Big Western this year and one of my all time favorite coffee shops, which I frequently visit for my caffeine fix.
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