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SERBC Barista Competition 2005
Author: Dan Kehn
Posted: September 19, 2005
Article rating: 8.1
feedback: (16) comments | read | write

The South East Regional Barista Championships went down last week in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. It stretched over September 9th to 11th, and was by all accounts a very successful event with 22 competitors.

Judges' Certification took place first, then the prelimary rounds. Here's some photos from those sessions. Please note, the winner of the SERBC, Lemuel Butler from Daily Grind Coffee, is in these photos, but our on-scene photographer, Jay Caragay, unfortunately missed Lem's performance in the finals.

All photos are courtesy of Alfred J. Caragay/JSI Images.

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Cedric Staton
Cedric from Cafe Ritazza pouring cappuccinos during the preliminary competition.
Cedric pours "monk's head" cappuccinos, also known as traditionals.
Shot time watching
Cedric watches his shot timing while preparing the second  portafilter for his signature drinks.
Cedric's menu for the judges, complete with the Barista Guild logo.
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Judges Watch
Cedric Staton prepares while sensory judges Mike Walsh, Andrew Timko,  Joe Davis and Dan Kehn observe.
Stephanie Britt
Stephanie, of Mr. Toad's Coffeehouse prepares her competition table for judges Dan Kehn  and Andrew Timko.
Judges Evaluate
Judges Scott Conary and Joe Davis make their scoresheet remarks for  Stephanie Britt.
A cappa
One of Stephanie's cappuccinos.
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Lemuel Butler
Lemuel Butler, of Daily Grind Espresso Cafe sets up his espressos for the judges.
Pouring Caps
Lem pours his cappuccinos for the judges.
Judging Espresso
Judge Dan Kehn scores while Judge Mike Walsh evaluates Lem's espresso shots.
Cappas being Built
Lem's cappuccinos during their build phase.
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Lem is intensely watching and coaxing his machine to perform.
Lem's signature drink.
As Lem cleans up after his performance, others are at work. Michelle Campbell at far left.
Elizabeth Gray
Elizabeth from Muddy Water, ramps up as judges watch, Emcee Nick Cho in background.
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Elizabeth answers questions from Nick (out of picture) while judges  Nicholas Drakas and Thom Swain score.
Table Service
Elizabeth serves Judge Ben Jaques his drink while Wonder Woman looks on.
Technical Judges David Haddock and Robin Lalor inspect Elizabeth's  station.
Head Judge Jeff Taylor keeps a keen eye on Elizabeth while Judges Ben Jaques and Aaron Ultimo score.

The Finals

The finals came down to the following competitors:

  1. Claudia Raymo-Quirk of Cup A Joe, Chapel Hill, NC
  2. Ryan Goodrow of Murky Coffee, Arlington, VA
  3. Mandy Catron of Murky Coffee, Arlington, VA
  4. Elizabeth Gray of Muddy Waters Coffeehouse, Elizabeth City, NC
  5. Lemuel Butler of Daily Grind Espresso Cafe, Efland, NC
  6. Lena Abed of Open Eye Cafe, Carrboro, NC

In no particular Order ;) The next notes come from Dan Kehn, judge at the competition and a moderator at CoffeeGeek.com

Lena Abed, Open Eye Cafe

Lena spread out a pale green tablecloth. Lebanese violin background music established an ethnic theme that was repeated in her performance. In addition to serving the traditional water, she presented a small tray of baklava to compliment the setting, plus ladyfingers and pistachios. She began by explaining a little about her coffee, a three bean blend grown in three different regions and roasted separately. Lena wore dark clothes with a collarless shirt with her dark hair drawn back in a bun.

Her distribution technique was a brief North-South sweep followed by three (or four) tamps, the last two (or three) with twists. Although video coverage colors were only fair, the set of espressos appeared to have nice dark colors with red reflections. As she prepared her four cappuccinos, she explained that she intentionally overfilled the milk to help keep the temperature down and prolong the stretching phase. Like a few other competitors, she prefers to swirl the two bell-shaped pitchers flat against the countertop, plus a few thunks. She explained that her competition style isn't like her usual work routine because four single cappuccinos isn't a typical order. She mentioned how she really liked the steam capacity.

It is very difficult to judge how a competitor is performing from the stands, even with the help of a video feed for close-ups. For example, looking at the pours of her cappuccinos, she appeared to come up short on foam, but the video close-ups of two judges evaluating the drinks looked correct and very nicely textured.

In keeping with her Middle Eastern theme, she named her signature drink after the first coffee shop in Turkey established in 1475, Kiva Han. It includes half-n-half, lemon zest, touch of cardamom, and sweetened condensed milk. It is served warm but not hot. For the steaming of the milk, she switched to straight-sided Alessi-style pitchers. The drink is finished with some cinnamon on top to balance the cardamom and lemon; she explained that it has a clean finish and citrus notes. Final time was 14:16.

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Lena Abed
Lena Abed of Open Eye Cafe begins her espresso preparation.
Water Service
Lena prepares water for Judges Thom Swain, Marcus  Boni, Andrew Timko, Joe Davis and Head Judge Jeff Taylor.
Lena reaches for a towel to wipe her steam wand after steaming a  pitcher of milk.
Pouring drinks, watching pours, while Technical Judges Gee Barger and David Haddock watch the details.
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Intensity while building her milk froth up.
Signature Drink
Signature Drink served to the judges.

Ryan Goodrow - Murky Coffee

Tall, bearded, wearing white shirt and black pants. Before the competition he wore a towel headband, looking the role of the "ninja barista". Once the clock started, he introduced himself and spread out a rust colored tablecloth before the judges and offered a choice of sparkling or still water. The background music was gentle jazzy guitar.

The stage area was cool and some baristas like Ryan compensated by preheating cups under a cloth atop the machine instead of using steam boiler water. Doses hard left and hard right, then center. Ryan employs the Stockfleths move, two tamps and taps with glancing blows on the side of the portafilter between them. The first pours looked slow and gloppy. Colors aren't well represented on the video feed, but the espresso stream looked good and coloring from a sensory judge's spoon looked excellent.

For his cappuccinos, Ryan used straight side pitchers with pointed spout and poured latte art. He also likes the "table spin and thunk" for finishing the milk. The second set of cappuccinos looked like they could be low on foam, but again it is hard to judge from the audience. The texture and Toscano's crema coloring showed nicely.

Ryan began his signature drink service by filling a thin, water drop shaped glass with orange syrup and sparkling water. He used a "booster" to reduce fall of the espresso, saying it would help keep temperature. The drink is served cold by taking the espresso in tall shot glass and adding it to the larger orange syrup glass. An attractive "beer foam" rise appeared as the espresso was added. Peter commented on how nice it looked and asked where the idea came from. Ryan's drink was inspired by a Washington Post food column; he said it was challenging working with the zest. Final time was 14:45.

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Ryan Goodrow
Ryan Goodrow of Murky Coffee fills his grinder during the prep period.
Ryan is introduced to the judges and the audience.
Water Service
Finals judges are served water by Ryan to start off.
Watch it!
Technical Judging according to Gee Barger.
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Ryan steams
Ryan prepares the milk for his cappuccino round.
Pouring capps
Ryan pours capps with latte art on them.
Sig Drink
Ryan serving up the signature drink.
Serving Signatures
The sig drink required a build at the judges' table.
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Nope! Judges are supposed to remain impassive during competition. Stone Faced. LOL!
Serving Cappas
Ryan serves his cappuccinos to the judges while the techies inspect.
Signature Drink
Ryan's signature drink looked great!
It's over!
Ryan shows evidence of his hard work while chatting with EmCee Peter Guiliano of Counter Culture Coffee.

Elizabeth Gray, Muddy Waters Cafe

Beth wore a pale yellow elbow-length shirt and cheery red apron that matched the red three-quarter length tablecloth. Yellow napkins, short water glasses, and paper Counter Culture Coffee cups for discards (a nod to her roaster). The crowded chuckled as she placed a "Wonder Woman" doll on the table as décor. The La Marzocco also sported a large Wonder Woman refrigerator magnet. Peter often asked how long the competitor had been a barista. Beth replied four years, and she loves her fun job. Espresso with caramel sauce and a dab of cream is her favorite.

Most baristas in the competition would rotate the portafilter while dosing, but Beth held it straight out, followed by a very quick NS leveling and twirled the portafilter instead of knocking with the tamper. Although the rules don't allow for serving it in the espresso, she provided vanilla powder to the side of the cup because she likes it that way.

She began her cappuccinos by pulling down the warmed cups from under a dry towel on top of the machine. She used only one straight-sided pitcher. The goal is to froth milk to a shiny chrome finish and not waste milk. Frothed all milk before beginning the second set. After a few gentle thunks, she poured all four drinks in stages. That is, Beth pours the creamy top layer to partially fill all four, then pours only milk where necessary to reach near the final volume, then uses the remains to finish any that are short on foam.

Beth came up with the idea of the Wonder Woman signature drink not because she's a feminist, but because she believes the character is a good role model. The ingredients for this drink hail back to the Amazon: Banana, coconut milk, half-n-half, served chilled with a garnish rim of unsweetened coconut flakes, coconut powder, and raw sugar. She explained the banana flavor and coconut are from Amazon and South American influences respectively.

The drink was served in a fluted glass with garnish rim atop a squared serving tray with earth tone finish. She mixed the ingredients of banana syrup and half-n-half infusion with espresso in a shaker and topped with frothed milk. Dried coconut were included in the side for their aromatics and banana chips as an after-drink snack. Beth called time at 14:43.

Technical notes: Many baristas forgot to refill water glasses, but not Beth.

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Elizabeth Gray
Elizabeth, from Muddy Waters, is introduced in the finals.
The Menu
The menu for Elizabeth's final round, featuring the Wonder Woman sig drink.
Elizabeth setting the table for the judges.
The Big Screen
The big screen shows Elizabeth's progress.
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Wonder Woman!
Elizabeth's theme was Wonder Woman, as she sets up her table.
The finals' judges evaluate Elizabeth's cappuccinos.
Sig Drink
Elizabeth serves her signature drink.
Wonder Woman!
Wonder Woman looks on.

Claudia Raymo-Quirk - Cup A Joe

Claudia spread out a baby blue full length tablecloth and served water from a small ornate golden tray. The crowd applauded when she replied to Peter that she has been working as a barista for eight years. She wore a dark skirt with embroidered wide trim and tied back her dark hair. Her music selection came from the Godfather.

Claudia favors a heavy solid stainless steel tamper-and she made unexpectedly frequent use of it. She tapped the portafilter mid-way while dosing, used quick two swipes to distribute, followed by two light tamps with two taps in between with a practiced fluid motion. She explained her espresso was composed of two blends roasted together and two mixed post-roast. The demitasses had the Cimbali logo and a gold rim; she mentioned that the ornate spoons were her grandmother's from Italy.

Things went awry during her preparation of the cappuccinos. She used the same steaming approach as the two preceding baristas, steaming in one big flared pitcher (not bell shaped). The first set of shots looked to be well short and she decide to chuck them. She moved the cups to the top of the machine and started the next pair, which also choked. While I felt for her situation, I admire that she didn't freeze. After mere seconds of seeing the pour was too slow, she dumped and reloaded the portafilter. Was that three or four times, I've lost count?!? She was running out of cups so she rinsed previously failed extractions and put them on top of the machine. Time was 10:05 before she returned to the steamed milk that had sat during the failed attempts; she hesitated as she checked the temperature of the pitcher's sides, but decided to pour anyway. Near whiteouts were visible from a distance since there was not enough foam. She returned to steam more milk, spending a total of approximately six minutes on the cappuccinos.

The clock read 11:58 when Claudia started her signature drinks. She served them in delicate gold-rimmed martini glasses with light pink whipped cream. Her chilled drinks were served tableside from a shaker. Despite the technical troubles Claudia encountered during her performance, she was outwardly calm and maintained an absolute focus on the task before her. Very graceful under pressure. Final time was 15:28.

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Having Fun
Claudia Raymo-Quirk from Cup a Joe had a fun time during competition.
Serving Espresso
Serving up her espresso to the judges.
A shot
One of Claudia's shots in the final round.
Smiles all around - Claudia's friendly and cheerful demeanor charmed the judges and the audience alike.
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Sensory Judge Marcus Boni and other judges sample Claudia's cappuccino.
Claudia Raymo-Quirk begins the final  stage of her signature prep with 10 seconds remaining.
Still Fun
With the pressure of running overtime building to a crescendo, Claudia Raymo-Quirk still finds a moment to make humorous quips.
Serve it Up!
Squeezing the last drops out of her Spumoni signature drink.

Mandy Catron of Murky Coffee

She introduced herself and laid down a full length white table cloth and white linen napkins. The judges were offered a choice of still or sparkling water. Mandy wore a white dress shirt with dark pants and blue apron; the yellow flower in her hair matched the flower in the vase on the table.

Mandy explained her presentation while preparing her drinks. The music was her favorite music by Van Morrison. She says it puts her in a good mood when opening the store at 6:30am. She rotates the portafilter three times while dosing and taps gently. Her first round of drinks were cappuccinos poured from two narrowed straight-sided pitchers. Nice hearts.

The baskets appeared very heavily dosed and the lock-in was tight for the espressos. Some competitors tamp directly on the countertop atop a towel, but Mandy and several others tamped with the portafilter spout ledge held firmly on the countertop edge. Rather than knocking the portafilter to dislodge grinds on the side of the basket, she would give the portafilter a quick twirl before locking it in the group.

She explained that her blend was Counter Culture Coffee's Toscano, a complex flavored espresso with bitter sweet chocolates (Brazils, Sumatra, Sulawesi). The crema color looked good in the video close-ups. Mandy mentioned the importance of hustling out the second set of espressos since the crema will break up if the drinks sit.

After serving her cappuccinos and espressos, Mandy paused to share the Greek myth of the boy named Perdix being thrown to his death by his angry uncle Daedalus. Before plummeting to his demise, the goddess Athena spared the boy by turning him into a partridge so he could fly away safely. While Mandy retold the story, she placed silver pear-shaped trays on the table, recalling the symbol of Athena, the sacred pear tree. The signature drink Mandy prepared would be a tribute to this tale with its ginger-pear flavors and perhaps recollections of a moment of divine intervention. She instructed the judges to sip initially without stirring to take in the clouds of milk and the earthy espresso favor; it would finish with sharp ginger-pear flavor. Finally, stir and taste the complexity.

She served her signature drink in glass demitasses, which highlighted the very attractive laying. A splotch of coconut milk (?) contrasted nicely with the surrounding brown crema. Her final time was 14:42.

Technical notes: Mandy's skills are precise and consistent. Seen from the stands, her technique was impeccable.

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Mandy Gears Up
Mandy Catron of Murky Coffee (Arlington, VA) waits intently for her turn.
Pouring Capps
Mandy pouring her capps as judges look on.
Pouring Froth
Finishing off the pours for her cappuccinos.
Bringing the cappuccinos over to the judges.
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Wiping Portafilter
Mandy builds her dose in the portafilter.
Mandy's espresso, ready to go to the tables.
Marcus Bony
Marcus drinks a good gulp from Mandy's cappuccino.
Mandy Done
Mandy, done her presentation, talks to the Emcee.
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Mandy building her signature drinks
A story
For her signature drink she provided a story about Damocles and how it ties  into her peach-based beverage.
Serving the sig drinks to the judges.
The judges evaluate what looksl ike a great signature drink.

Lemuel Butler, Daily Grind Espresso

Lem has long mid-back length hair tied neatly behind his head. He was nicely attired in dark slacks, white shirt, and a gray silk tie tucked into his shirt. He introduced himself, the coffees he would serve, and his "good morning" signature drink. The espressos were made with Counter Culture's Aficionado blend of five origins.

Lem doses straight ahead with a quick one-stroke level, two tamps and two taps. He served his espressos in attractive porcelain cups with painted scenes on the sides. The judges were told to expect Brazils with earthy tones and the blueberry overtones of Harar. In addition to having good body for espresso, Lem commented that the earthy tones are great with cappuccinos.

As he prepared his cappuccinos, he explained that the secret to good milk is a good vortex to smooth out bubbles. Lem poured off the top foam and jiggled the pitcher while pouring to produce a marbled surface. He noticed during the last pours that the foam was starting to fade, so he poured off only milk to a previous cup and then side-poured the remains to maximize the last of the froth. Nice save!

Lem signature drink for those "on the go" was served on individual white square ceramic trays with upturned edges. At one corner he placed three dots of chocolate with a smaller inner dot of maple syrup. He then created a small leaf-like design by dragging a toothpick through the three syrup dots. His preparation was peppered with detailed explanations of what he was using and why he chose one approach over another. Each serving included a teaspoon of maple syrup. He uses glass because it cools the beverage (120-140F) and it shows off the layering effect between the espresso, milk, and syrup. The espresso pours along a cinnamon stick directly from the portafilter. Lem explained that the Papua New Guinea is spicy and the cinnamon stick exploits it by adding its own natural sweetness. The maple syrup "kicks it up a notch" . His commentary was engaging. Final time was 14:45.

(we don't have photos of Lem from the Finals)

Competition Winner Announcement

Not much to say here - enjoy the photos!

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At the end of the competition, all finalists were brought onstage to  crown the champion. From L to R: Claudia Raymo-Quirk, Lem Butler, Mandy Catron, Ryan Goodrow and Beth Gray.
Ryan 3rd
Not sure if it's really him, Ryan Goodrow captured Third Place with  569.5 points.
Lem Wins!
Lemuel Butler as he wins the SouthEast Regional Barista Championship  with 610.5 points.
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Cindy Chang, SERBC Coordinator, presents Lem Butler with his championship plaque.
Top Three!
The SERBC Finalists: Lena Abed, Lem Butler and Ryan Goodrow.
What's a Barista Championship report without a nice photo of Jeff Taylor?
Article rating: 8.1
Author: Dan Kehn
Posted: September 19, 2005
feedback: (16) comments | read | write
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