what to make of lem butler? the fellow roasts coffee, surfs, spins the vinyl, stars in a puppet show, treats his girlfriend like a real gent and wins seemingly every southeast barista competition he deigns to enter. (edit: the rare loss came in ’07, of course, to nick cho.)
more than 60 points is the margin by which “sexyfoam” three-peated as champion. still as humble and aw-shucks as ever. cracked up the judges with his banter, poured milk into his cappuccinos from both hands simultaneously, dropped his extra coffee on anyone who would take some, took a detour to greet old friends, walked out with another trophy. that’s lem — a fusion of both crowd-friendly pure smoothness and judge-friendly pure skill. and he used established, no-nonsense coffee — counter culture’s la forza espresso blend, and the ethiopia shakisso. the latter, carted home to the blogbar this evening and pulled in tiny quantities on the old-school lever machine, reminded us of malted rose hips.
this blog was so busy minding the mastery and watching his utterly worry-stricken lady that we failed to take copious notes. here, in photographs, is your champeen and your duly proceeding finalists. corrections/elaborations welcome in the comments.
2nd place: atlanta’s chandler rentz blew through his routine with a gruff assurance and elevated his shop (aurora coffee) and coffee company (batdorf & bronson) in a hurry. notable: flash-lit orange peels over his signature beverage. major piece of flair for chandler.
3rd place: octane coffee‘s dale donchey was demonstrably disappointed with third place. he expected to win. notable: a signature beverage that not only included tobacco-smoked blood orange, it also took something like 11 minutes to make in round one. and he still finished within the 15-minute limit. gratuitous, this blog says.
4th place: greenville‘s shannon hudgens might have easily tiptoed into third place if he had told the judges to stir his signature beverage — a drink, as it happens, that kept drawing raves. a sipping chocolate without a bit of chocolate in it, only espresso and mascarpone cheese. at what point, this blog wonders, is shannon no longer the darkhorse wunderkind of the southeast, but rather a thoroughbred heavyweight? to, ah, mix some metaphors.
5th place: a crowd favorite, that dustin mattson. all snappy fingers and redneck-hipster-geek and “let me just caress this mixer while i’m waiting.” also of octane, but recently of greenville. also with a fiancee full o’ nerves who is TRYING TO LOOK CALM.
6th place: dave delchamps, of 1000 faces coffee, had more niceness than kipper the dog. without question a classy, independent barista who happened to roast his own coffee. a two-time finalist with a trail of admirers.