cfest ii: reasons to say ‘huzzah’

June 3, 2007 – 1:32 am

cuppin’ the stuff at a madly hopping counter culture booth. silky bolivian peanut butter sandwich included.

three — out of hundreds! — of committed coffee fest attendees agreed tonight with this blog: the afterparties are killer. jostling latte art smackdown-age. krispy kreme donuts. a bizarre human, er, interpretation of a death cab for cutie song by a certain well-known coffee representative. but the notion of engaging the masses with all this exuberance, this drama, these tattoos, well … it’s downright vital.

… which is why it’s sort of nice to hear that counter culture coffee is opening something like five or six urban barista training centers for professional users of its stuff. asheville and charlotte, n.c., philly (to be run by phil), new york and atlanta (chris‘s gig, and cause for this eve’s bash-and-a-half). we’re talking closed, dedicated spaces for working on bar skillz. corporate resources. and, in atlanta’s case, one attached apartment with a thoroughly unmade bed!

… which is why it was downright heart-warming to see globe-trotting coffee buyer peter giuliano cupping coffee with convention first-timers this afternoon like they were his own kids jumping off the high dive.

… which is why it’s intriguing to hear others murmur what this blog has been thinking: hoffmann is newly unemployed and traveling the u.s.? what does that mean? does this sound familiar to anyone? doth one detect an imminent paradigm shift in head-snapping domestic brew? (UPDATE: persons who seem to know say hoffmann’s not about to turn yank.)

… which is why it’s cool to find some of the baristi who think the hardest, who speak the humblest and who have the most grounded ideas for reaching real, coffee-drinking people on the fringe of tonight’s party, in the red armchairs, describing a dream future that involves coffee for the masses — the same masses known to huddle outside a trailer on a college campus in the pouring winter rain for a guy’s latte. cheers to lem.

… which is why it’s so doggone fun to see spectators lolling on the bar as official latte art competitors poured their stuff — drama for the people! — and so funny to see traveled coffee names embarrassing the liquid out of themselves in tonight’s quasi-sober, winner-take-all latte art pool. there were taunts (“use the vortex, lem!”), there were jittery two-pitcher pours and there was plenty of sweaty humiliation. the top five pourers, if memory serves: aaron subtle haircut and katie subtle humor, both from murky, the aforementioned zombie chris owens, the double-champ chris deferio and the unshaven irish-looking danger dan griffin, winner of $157 for the night.

… which is why it was so disconcerting to hear an opinionated coffee roaster say, in the 5 p.m. roasters roundtable, that hobbyists are hurting the industry. their offense? failing to change their mindset when they move from a garage operation to a commercial business. maybe they undersell the competition, or pay themselves too little, the guy says. this he differentiated from “honest” competition — as if working on a shoestring were somehow shady, or thinking like an avid consumer were somehow a business error. he sounded scared.

… which is why it was so gratifying to hear from the man behind a sharp-n-edgy atlanta joint that took one snarky poke too many from this blog back in march. gracious, honest and attentive, he was. so in case it wasn’t clear before: go to octane. because it’s yummy, and has comfortable couches.

… which is why it was completely groovy to check out the adorable but potent home roaster from a commercial roasting juggernaut, and hear that a two-pound model is forthcoming next year. that alone has convinced the cypriot to cruise down here tomorrow morning.

speaking of which, that’s now what it is. we’re off to do a noseplant in an air mattress. also, recover.

if this blog’s favorite finalists are any indication, sunday’s final latte art round could look a lot like an alterra juggernaut of pain. also: is that a flame-breathing rosetta?