SERBC: the other 5

February 18, 2009 – 2:31 am

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a small chorus of experts tells us that all the competitors in this year’s southeast competition did well. this blog is in no position to know. but it was easy to see that the professionalism, the deft smoothness and brisk certainty with which competitors approached their routines was greatly improved across the board. and every finalist four of the six finalists, it seems, were first-time competitors.

maybe it was the airy setting — a barista museum, it felt like — but all six were quite plainly a treat to watch. there was unforced narrative in the presentations that didn’t require an insider’s lingo. easy insight and definite artistry. tight, gleaming performances within easy view of the cheap seats.

that’s what we saw. herewith, a roundup of the best of the rest, intentionally photographed without any special access. just a junkie snapping from the public space.

if such a place hosts future competitions, it’ll be much easier for this blog to begin inviting its clueless friends in the general populace. in other words, it seemed as if something approaching public accessibility seemed, at long last, within the realm of possibility. witness:

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runner-up crystal, of atlanta’s octane coffee bar, whose ‘do kept going all beatific halo in the streaming overhead sunlight. both peppy and concentrated. signature beverage involved espresso with carob, cardamom and cinnamon, with honey whipped cream floating atop.

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third-place dale, of atlanta’s new method coffee bar, who appeared slam full of irony when he said, by way of explaining his unusual signature bev, “foodies are cool.” the drink involved espresso, pistachio syrup and a gelato-like pear cream. word is, requests are already flowing in at the shop.

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octane’s josh, whose marked limp and prominent cane between competition rounds bespoke some mystery injury which easily enhanced what was already a genial everyman aura. the man had fans. sig bev involved the aforementioned habanero-tinged honey and espresso. risky!

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word on the competition floor was that david, of 1000faces coffee in athens, was largely self taught. took a few skills classes, studied competitor videos, practiced a lot. clearly nervous, but in control. more hot stuff in the sig — cayenne pepper, chocolate, cinnamon and half-and-half, with self-roasted espresso.

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travis, of virginia’s murky coffee, was the only non-georgia finalist and easily the quietest. it wasn’t awkward silence, really, just an obvious sign of focus. focus, austerity and a bowtie. served a deconstructed root beer float of elements with which not even his boss seemed overly familiar.