Monday, February 21, 2011

A what champion?

Front-page news in Chapel Hill yesterday was that two local coffee houses (Open Eye Café in adjacent Carrboro and Caffe Driade in Chapel Hill) boast a barista champion, "southeast titlist Michael Harwood," who "is headed for the nationals in Houston."
    I don't know about you, but I'd never heard of a barista and, accordingly, never suspected that there were barista competitions. But, hey!, this is America, the land of "reality TV."
    But I quickly caught on that a barista is the person who prepares your individual cup of coffee at fine restaurants and coffee houses. And Michael Harwood sounds like a coffee artist:
...Harwood began practicing for the competition and preparing his signature coffee....
    To develop his signature drink, Harwood bought a whole bunch of ingredients from Weaver Street Market and began experimenting. Eventually he came up with a drink that included the juice from Moro blood oranges, Sourwood honey with a caramel note from Lee's Bees in Mebane [Mebane!], a bit of rosemary and milk from Maple View Farm. [p. 6, Chapel Hill Herald]
    The article quotes Mr. Harwood:
I almost got perfect scores on that drink, and it definitely put me over the top to win.
    But besides prepare four cups of a near-perfect signature drink, listen to what else contestants must do:
...make four cups of espresso and four cups of cappuccino within 15 minutes, while explaining to the judges about the farmer who grew the beans, why he selected the coffee, and some of the techniques he was using.
I hope to be able to tell you soon how I think it tastes. Sounds wonderful. I'll have to visit either of both of the cafés, which are owned by Scott Conary and Elizabeth Meunier, who also own the Carrboro Coffee Company. The article reports that Mr. Conary
is considered a world-class expert on specialty coffees and he serves as a judge at the regional, national, and world levels. He'll be certifying the judges at the barista world championship in Bogota, Columbia, this year.
The next day. I just got off the phone with Michael Harwood, who says that he and his barista colleagues are enjoying his celebrity. He's going to let me know when I can come by the Open Eye for a cup of his signature drink. It's not always available, as their supply is small right now of the Honduran coffee the drink calls for.
    I was amused to hear the person who answered the phone at the Open Eye say to Michael, "Celebrity, you have another call." Scott Conary tells me by email, "He is indeed, and deservedly so, a celebrity! Who doesn't like watching and interacting with a master craftsman who is also an ambassador for his industry?"


  1. I'm glad I don't drink coffee so I am not tempted to spend money trying out the baristas' creations. :)

  2. Hey, did I ever say anything like that about boating! <wink>

  3. I need to save all my money to spend on the boat! None extra for fancy coffee!

  4. That's a very good cause, one well worth skipping fancy coffees and other luxuries!