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Battle Brewing Between Baristas

Tom Williams/Roll Call
Lindsey Kiser, a barista at Peregrine Espresso, is preparing to compete in the South East Regional Barista Competition this Friday through Sunday in Atlanta.

For Peregrine’s contestants, however, it shouldn’t be much different from an average day behind the counter. Owner Ryan Jensen subjects his employees to demanding tests like the six-minute drill, challenging them to make espressos, macchiatos, cappuccinos and lattes in less than six minutes while peppering them with random questions.

It has prepared the Peregrine team well for dealing with both customers and judges. Beckett noted that an integral part of the competition — as well as a truly great coffee experience — is the connection between a barista and the coffee drinker. A great barista talks to the customer about everything from where the coffee comes from to the intricacies of the flavors.

“Coffee is really technically demanding and incredibly relational,” he said. “That connection and knowledge ups the ability to appreciate the drink. If the judges have a personal connection, the ability to enjoy goes through the roof.”

The three baristas credit Peregrine Espresso for their coffee skills and serious approach to their craft.

And they do take it very seriously. Sterner said that while he has worked in coffee for 14 years, he doesn’t know whether he has earned the title of barista quite yet. That reverence permeates the Eastern Market shop, where baristas happily take the time to pour over cups, create latte art and explain in detail the various types of coffee.

“There’s such a strong sense of community here,” Kiser said. “Because we’re in a neighborhood, people come here year after year. It’s not only about exploring the craft you love, but doing it within a community.”

For these three people, coffee is not about pressing a button on a machine — it’s an art form.

“There’s just a passion for specialty coffee here,” Kiser said. “Coffee in and of itself is an intricate mystery that you’re trying to figure out, and you get sucked in.”

Peregrine Espresso will set up a projector in the shop (660 Pennsylvania Ave. SE) on Feb. 11-13 for customers to watch a live stream of the competition.

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