I recently visited Topeka to attend the inaugural Flatlanders Barista Cup, which is a weekend where baristas around the Midwest US (and beyond) come to have a friendly team competition based on latte art, cupping triangulation and the creation and service of their own espresso blend. A few days ago, I did not know too much about Topeka, other than the fact that its about one hour away from Kansas City, and is home to PT’s Coffee. However, I recently visited Topeka to attend the inaugural Flatlanders Barista Cup, which is a weekend where baristas around the Midwest US (and beyond) come to have a friendly team competition based on latte art, cupping triangulation and the creation and service of their own espresso blend. Not only that, PT’s flew in several of their producers from El Salvador and Guatemala whom they purchase their coffee from directly. This gave the producers a unique opportunity to meet some of the best baristas today, and see their coffees shine.
Although I did not compete, I was honored to judge alongside some of the great names like Alejandro Mendez, the 2011 World Barista Champion, his coach Fredrico Bolanos, and the 2011 US Barista Champion Pete Licata. I met many other great coffee people from around the area and tasted some fantastic drinks. A fun kickoff party where Alejandro, Pete and I made drinks for everyone behind bar set the tone for what turned out to be a great weekend.
Having the producers come visit a producing country was a real treat, for them and us. It is always great to establish a connection with the producers of coffee, as its often an extremely far removed supply chain with many steps. I love seeing this come full circle, as you could see how proud these producers were of their coffee and how much they enjoyed seeing other people taste it.
When bringing an international community together, it accumulates a diverse wealth of coffee knowledge, that always generates innovative and engaging discussions. This collection of knowledge is the value of having events like Flatlanders. In the short time at the event, I listened and participated in extensive talks about accessibility of specialty coffee, distribution, batch brew vs. pour overs, and more. What I loved most was seeing the deliberate effort that has been placed on building the community of coffee-lovers in the Midwest states. It was amazing to connect with people that had the same passion. The coffee community here is burgeoning, and an event like Flatlanders is helping push it over the edge.
Stay tuned for more posts on learnings from the visiting producers, and the different topics touched on throughout the weekend.