That Time We Went to Coffee Fest NYC

 

That Time We Went to Coffee Fest NYC

Posted on Tuesday, March 18, 2014 - 6:15pm By Michael Harwood

New York City. Home of the Bronx Bombers, yellow taxis, and 8.337 million people. Ceremony Coffee added nine more souls to the City that Never Sleeps at this year’s Eastern Regional Coffee Fest, one of the world’s preeminent coffee and tea trade shows.

Over three non-stop days, we brewed through pounds of an exciting range of espressos and filters, microfoamed our way through gallons of milk, connected with a small village of friends new and old, competed in and won America’s Best Espresso, competed in the Latte Art Championship, showed off beautiful Synesso espresso machines and Compak espresso grinders, and ate so much amazing food that we nearly burst.

Ceremony at Coffee Fest

We warmed up each day by running Morning Coffee (an espresso and pour over bar) for the hundreds of people passing through the Coffee Fest gate at the Javits Center. Despite what you may think, it can be pretty difficult to find delicious coffee at coffee events! In light of this, folks were very excited and grateful to taste what we were serving. Some of the crowd favorites were the Ethiopia Wazzala for its lively apricot flavor and Destroyer Espresso for its sweet balance. The Rwanda Gitesi was probably the most challenging coffee we served. Seeing people’s eyes light up from having a first-time experience with such special, complex coffee is pretty amazing. I love my training and QA job, but sometimes I miss being on bar for moments like that. Having the opportunity to serve such beautiful coffees to most-appreciative and sometimes surprised guests is one of the most rewarding experiences I can imagine.

After Morning Coffee, we hustled back to our booth and got the coffee flowing there. It was a pleasure to share a workspace with my fellow Ceremony baristas, roasters, and co-workers. Their talent and knowledge is evident, but I could tell that folks were even more impressed with their commitment to being friendly, present, and polite with everyone who approached our booth (kudos to all my co-workers for running a tight, well-guided ship at Coffee Fest).

America's Best Espresso bracket

As last year’s winner, Ceremony was invited to compete in the America’s Best Espresso competition. In this event, a bracket of baristas pull shots head-to-head. In each round, two baristas must each serve three shots of espresso to a panel composed of three judges in either 7 minutes (1st round) or 10 minutes (all rounds thereafter). The judges assess both competitors’ shots, tally up their scores based on flavor complexity, mouthfeel & appeal, and aftertaste, then announce their vote. To advance, you have to earn at least two out of three votes. Our entry was an espresso roast profile of the Panama Santa Teresa Honey Geisha.

America's Best Espresso plate

To prepare, I dialed-in the Santa Teresa on the Nuova Simonelli Aurelia II on Friday morning during practice time. I then competed twice on Saturday and twice on Sunday, using the same recipe set during practice with only slight changes in extraction time. Aside from the Santa Teresa being an incredibly sweet, round, and flavorful coffee, there were a few methods I used that helped us succeed. These aren’t big secrets, so I don’t mind sharing! The first is to keep a clean machine. This seems obvious, but I noticed that the portafilters and groupheads smelled of old coffee oils before both rounds on Saturday (Sunday smelled cleaner). Doing a quick clear-water backflush, wiping out under the portafilter basket, then pulling a seasoning shot helped our coffee taste much sweeter and cleaner. The other method was to let my shots rest a minute or two before delivery. Giving the shots time to cool opened up their flavors for the judges. Beverage temperatures closer to your temperature allows the human palate to observe more flavor, but this is a double-edged sword. If your shot has dirty or defective flavors, you’d probably want to consume it while it was hot, precisely because you don’t want to taste those off-notes. I would never hold a shot back during cafe service, but in an artificial setting where flavor is being critically appraised, cooling down my shots gave me an advantage. In the end, sourcing an incredible coffee and roasting it for peak sweetness and liveliness produced an espresso that didn’t lose a single vote! We are proud to have won America’s Best Espresso and look forward to representing the East in the Nationals this October. Wish us luck! In the meantime, we encourage you to try the Panama Santa Teresa Honey Geisha SOE for yourself.

http://store.ceremonycoffee.com/coffees/santa_teresa_geisha_soe.html

If pour over or press pot is more your speed, our filter profile Geisha can't be beat either! http://store.ceremonycoffee.com/coffees/santa_teresa_geisha.html

As I was hustling back to Port Authority to catch my bus on Sunday evening, I thought about the teamwork that went into making our weekend such a success. Maybe it was the exhaustion or maybe it was just New York street grit, but for some reason, my eyes watered up a bit. I’ve thought it before, but our Coffee Fest weekend reiterated to me that I am so proud to be part of this team.

Midtown NYC