Chow Town

November 6, 2013

Barista Nation gave coffee pros non-competitive, collaborative learning environment

A good barista makes coffee look effortless. But getting that good takes work.

Chow Town

The daily dish on Kansas City's food and drink scene

A good barista makes coffee look effortless. But getting that good takes work.

It’s not enough to just pull a shot — top baristas must master a myriad of technical skills, understand coffee production and sourcing and consider the culinary side of their art. Which is why some 60 coffee professionals turned out for

Barista Nation

on Monday.

They included baristas, roasters, coffee buyers, equipment and product manufacturers and even a few media from Kansas City, St. Louis, Springfield and other burgs throughout Missouri and Kansas. The owners of Espresso Etc., my niece’s favorite coffee shop in Russell, Kan., even came.

The goal? To create a non-competitive, collaborative learning environment for regional coffee pros, says Anastasia Chovan, director of sales and marketing for espresso equipment maker


,which organized the event.

“It’s very grassroots,” Chovan said of Barista Nation, which is now in its third year and has traveled to cities as varied as Tokyo, Paris, San Francisco and Los Angeles. “Each one is different. It’s all driven by the coffee community.”

The Kansas City version featured locals including

Oddly Correct’s Gregory Kolsto, who led a session on how to craft your own vision; Marty Roe of About the Coffee,which hosted the event; and a crew from Kaldi’s Coffee

(which now owns Latte Land) that outlined how to integrate food into your coffee business.

Kate Blackman of

Parisi Artisan Coffee

led a Rwandan coffee cupping, and World Barista Champion, Parisi quality assurance manager and Olathe native Pete Licata delivered a keynote on building connections through coffee.

There were also sessions on latte art, using toddy coffee to bridge between summer and winter menus, coffee milkshakes, coffee cocktails and espresso equipment. Sarah Allen, editor of

Barista Magazine

, explained how Oregon wine growers used community to build their brand and challenged coffee pros to do the same, while importers from InterAmerican Coffee and Ally Brazilian Coffee Merchants explained how green coffee is exported and priced, including the mysteries of futures markets and differentials.

Does every barista need to know all of that? Maybe not. But there’s no doubt we’ll get better coffee than ever in Kansas City now because so many of them do.

Dark Stormy Riff

Makes 1 drink

Step one: forget what you think you know about coffee cocktails. Step two: take Jacque Des Marais’ approach by taking your favorite coffee, making a cold brew and then working it into your favorite classic cocktail. Worried you’ll mess it up? Don’t.

“There’s no recipe for a perfect coffee cocktail,” says Des Marais, who works for Kaldi’s Coffee in St. Louis. “Sometimes I try weird things and come across pairings that are fantastic.”

2 ounces rye whiskey 1/4 ounce cold brewed coffee (Des Marais used Kaldi’s Lerida Estate coffee from Panama) 1/4 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice 5 ounces ginger beer Lime wheel, for garnish

Fill a cocktail shaker partway with ice. Add rye, coffee and lime juice and shake until chilled. Strain into an ice-filled Old Fashioned glass, top with ginger beer and garnish with lime wheel.

Anne Brockhoff is an award-winning spirits writer who writes a monthly column for The Star’s Food section, as well as food features. She blogs at food_drink_ .

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