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South West Regional Barista Competition: Honolulu's Licata wins; Krankl of Gelato Bar comes in second

March 7, 2011 | 12:51 pm


After three days and hundreds of cups of coffee (espressos, cappuccinos and specialty drinks, including one served with lamb chops) made by 36 contenders from seven states, Pete Licata of Honolulu Coffee Co. emerged the winner of this year's South West Regional Barista Competition.

Nikolas Krankl, who was registered as a representative of Gelato Bar & Espresso Caffe in Studio City and Los Feliz, placed second. And Jared Truby of Verve Coffee Roasters in Santa Cruz took third.

Six finalists competed Sunday -- the top-scoring baristas culled from rounds held the previous two days at Siren Studios in Hollywood, where a crowd of fans cheered on Licata, Krankl, Truby, Sara Peterson of Verve, Kevin Bohlin of Ritual Coffee Roasters in San Francisco and Row Aczon of Honolulu Coffee.  

Baristas have 15 minutes to prepare for the judges four espressos, four cappuccinos and four specialty drinks. The latter get points for creativity, lamb chops not required. ("I heard somebody had carpaccio" with their specialty drink during Round 1, noted technical judge Brian Clemens.)

Each barista is scored by a panel of seven judges based on technical and sensory criteria. To name a few: how much coffee is spilled during grinding; whether extraction times for espressos are consistent (within a three-second variance) in each category; how much milk is left in pitchers after cappuccinos are made; the color of the espresso's crema; the consistency of the cappuccino foam; and whether the espresso was a balance of sweet, acidic and bitter; among many other criteria.

Meanwhile, the competition also held its first Brewers Cup -- a contest of coffees made with manual brewing devices. The winner was Chris Baca, also of Verve Coffee Roasters, who notably performed in the first round to Destiny Child's "Say My Name." 

The six barista finalists will be entered in the U.S. Barista Championship, which takes place in Houston from April 27 to May 1. The world championship will be held in Bogota, Colombia, in June. 

More photos after the jump.

-- Betty Hallock

The six barista finalists.

Chris Baca during the first round of the Brewers Cup. 

Pete1Pete Licata, ready for the finals Sunday.

NikolasNikolas Krankl grinds coffee for his espressos.  

Chris Baca gets a hug from 2010 World Barista Champion Mike Phillips of Intelligentsia.

Photos: Betty Hallock / Los Angeles Times