Ready, set, brew! Barista contest rolls out

As a relatively new barista, Rob Kettner trained extra hard for the 2009 Western Regional Barista Championship in August.

"I'd be making 100 cappuccinos a night," said Kettner, a Victoria, B.C., resident who worked as a coffee roaster for three years before becoming a barista in May. "I'd say I was drinking 20 to 30 espressos a night at the peak of my training. The pressure of learning how to do this competition … and drinking that much caffeine turned me into a bit of a crazy person."

The hard work paid off, though: Kettner placed fourth, and was bumped up to third after that barista had to pull out of the competition. Kettner will now compete in the 2009 Canadian Barista Championship, taking place Oct. 14 and 15 at the Vancouver Convention Centre as part of the Canadian Coffee and Tea show.

A total of 16 participants — 12 regional placers and four randomly selected wild cards — will have 15 minutes to make 12 beverages: four espressos, four cappuccinos and four signature drinks of their own creation. In addition to taste and presentation, judges will look at technical skills and station cleanliness.

The winner gets flight and hotel to London, to compete in the 2010 World Barista Championship.

Chris Tellez of Collingwood, Ont., took first place in the Central Regional Barista Championship. He says station cleanliness and staying calm were among the harder challenges for him.

"Making sure you're comfortable with what you're doing is probably harder," he said.

"I mean, you're putting on a bit of an act, but if you can make it feel as natural as possible, that definitely comes through."

He adds that while there's a strong sense of camaraderie among the baristas, the competitions can be tense.

"It's an interesting dichotomy between incredibly nerve-wracking and a lot of fun," he said.

Vancouver native Sammy Piccolo is the winner of last year's national competition. He says the event is what each competitor makes it.

"If all you care about is winning, then it's not going to be fun," he said. "If you're loose and prepared, it can be fun and exciting, with a lot of joking around."

Don't miss the final
These regional winners and wild cards will compete against each other at the 2009 Canadian Barista Championship at the Vancouver Convention Centre on Oct. 14-15.

Wild cards
• Josh Hockin, Transcend Coffee (Edmonton)
• Michael Tam, Phil & Sebastien (Calgary)
• Luc Spicer, Café Neve (Montreal)
• Sameer Mohamed, Toi, Moi & Café (Montreal)

• Chris Tellez, Espresso Post (Collingwood, Ont.)
• Sam James, Sam James Coffee House (Toronto)
• Momiji Kishi, Dark Horse Espresso Bar (Toronto)


• Anthony Benda, Café Myriad (Montreal)
• Cliff Hansen, Bridgehead (Ottawa)
• Alex Scott, Café Myriad (Montreal)


• Kyle Straw, Caffé Artigiano (Vancouver)
• Spencer Viehweger, JJ Bean Coffee (Vancouver)
• Rob Kettner, Fernwood
Coffee Company (Victoria, B.C.)

• Ben Put, Phil & Sebastian Coffee (Calgary)
• Joel May, Fratello Coffee (Calgary)
• Chad Moss, Transcend Coffee (Calgary)

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