We were delighted to see so many members of the community at Blanchard's Coffee Roasting Co. and Studio Two Three supporting the Richmond coffee scene as Blanchard's hosted the first ever U.S. Coffee Championships Prelims competition held in Richmond, Virginia. The event was a complete success, due in large part to the overwhelming support and involvement of the community.
In case you missed it, here's a recap of what happened:
Though we began preparations long in advance, the event began in earnest Friday morning when nearly thirty volunteer judges from throughout the United States arrived at Blanchard's to begin their 8hr orientation and calibration session. At the end of the day, all of the weekend's registered competitors began a compulsory coffee cupping of five unnamed coffees to select their preferred coffees or blends to be used in their competition performance. This cupping was followed by a short orientation meeting for competitors. Many competitors and supporters headed from there to Lamplighter Coffee in Scott's Addition to participate in a latte art throw down followed by an after party.
Saturday started early with a make-up compulsory coffee cupping for anyone who missed the previous day's cupping, and then practice times began. Each competitor is allowed a short practice period on the competition stage prior to their performance. Competitions went smoothly at both locations, due largely to the outstanding set of volunteers we had on both competition days to handle any issues that might have come up.
Competition performances continued through until Sunday around 3pm when all the scores were tabulated and rankings were announced at 5pm. This year we hosted three competition classes: Barista, Brewers Cup, and Coffee in Good Spirits.
Barista is the largest and most complicated competition class, where competitors are required to prepare and serve an espresso course followed by a milk beverage course. Competitors are scored on flavor quality and presentation of beverages, cleanliness, timing and overall performance. The six highest scoring performers earn a guaranteed slot in a National Qualifier event where they compete with other coffee professionals for a chance to advance to US National Coffee Championships.
Brewers Cup Prelims, held at Studio Two Three, is all about the quality of the coffee brewed and performance of the competitor. Competitors use a manual brew method of their choice to brew the best cup possible of the coffee they chose. They speak to why they chose that particular coffee and how it relates to their coffee experience while serving the judges. The top four high scoring brewers are selected for guaranteed spots at the next level of competition - a National Qualifier event.
Coffee in Good Spirits is the newest addition to the US Coffee Championships circuit, and arguably the most exciting. Competitors are provided a list of three liquors. In the case of our event, the three liquors were Jameson Irish Whiskey, Tanqueray Gin, and Bacardi White Rum. The evening before the competition, competitors are assigned one of the three liquors and can then begin crafting the recipe for their unique coffee based cocktail, which they will make in front of judges during their performance slot. Only the top three scoring competitors advance to a National Qualifier event.
The event, as a whole, ran incredibly smoothly and everyone seemed to have an absolute blast. The fact that a regional roaster showcase featuring roasters from Virginia and North Carolina was giving away free coffee and espressos all weekend had to help keep the event's energy high. We couldn't have pulled this event off without the help of our outstanding list of sponsors and our incredible volunteers who worked hard during their time here, giving up a big chunk of their weekend to support Richmond coffee. We look forward to the next event coming soon!