( Download the Barista Competition Press Release )

The beans will be grinding, the espresso machines whirring and amazing drinks being created as coffee enthusiasts from 11 states and Washington DC pour into western Pennsylvania this February for the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast Regional Barista Competitions presented by the Specialty Coffee Association of America.  This “Iron Chef”-like event, hosted by Kiva Han Coffee, the Pittsburgh region’s premiere coffee roaster, marks the first time the competition will be held in the region.  With a “For the Love of Coffee” theme, the competition takes place February 6-8, 2009 at the Pittsburgh Marriott North in Cranberry Township, Butler County.

“The event is as much of an entertaining food show featuring coffee as the star ingredient as it is a serious competition,” says Ed Wethli, owner of Kiva Han Coffee.  “Anyone who loves drinking coffee, enjoys cooking and watches food shows on television will have a great time, plus they’ll learn a lot about specialty coffee beverages.”

Baristas Create Delectable Coffee Concoctions
While the barista at your local coffee shop may know that your favorite coffee drink is a “tall, skinny capp with a double shot of espresso and no whip”, the more than 50 baristas competing in the event will each prepare three of their own original signature drinks.  Attendees will be able to watch the intricate preparation process via video cameras that will showcase each step on large projection screens.  The competition, judged by the association’s credentialed coffee experts, continues through three daily rounds in a single-elimination format.  Winners from both the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions will be named at the conclusion of the final round on Sunday, February 8.  The winners advance to the national championships in Portland, Oregon later in the year.

“The baristas are judged not only on their preparation process, ingredients, final presentation and flavor, but also on their personal style, physical movements and verbal explanations during the demonstration,” explained Wethli.  “People who come to watch the event will see some of the region’s most talented baristas create some incredible, gourmet drinks.”

The event is made possible by the Butler County Tourism & Convention Bureau and these platinum sponsors: Crazy Mocha Coffee Company, Marburger Farm Dairy, The Coffee Tree Roasters and DaVinci Gourmet/The Kerry Group.

Dessert: The Perfect Coffee Accompaniment
What goes better with coffee than rich, delectable desserts?  In addition to watching the baristas compete, each day area restaurants/eateries including North Country Brewing Company, Springfield Grill, The Fig Tree, Sweethouse Bake Shop, McGinnis Sisters, Fresh Cup Café and Mimi’s Bake Shoppe will feature their most tempting desserts that are a perfect accompaniment to coffee.   The chefs will also perform recipe demonstrations each day to add even more flavor to the weekend.

Since a coffee event wouldn’t be complete without a coffee bar, attendees will be able to enjoy a menu of specialty coffee drinks, including the signature drink created by each day’s winner.

Desserts and Drinks Benefit Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank
While admission to the barista competition is free, tickets for the dessert sampling will be available to those with a sweet tooth.  For just $10, individuals can savor a dessert from each participating restaurant and a specialty coffee beverage.  Advance tickets will be sold for $8.  Proceeds from dessert tickets and the coffee bar sales will be donated to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank to fill up the kitchens of needy families in Butler County and surrounding areas.

A “Don’t Miss” for the Coffee Industry
Coffee shop owners and restaurant managers as well as entrepreneurs who want to learn more about opening their own coffee business will find the event to be beneficial for both networking and learning.  Representatives from coffee and equipment suppliers will be available.

“There’s isn’t a better way to warm up on a cold winter weekend than to stop by the event and heat up your senses,” said Wethli.  “Between the tastes of the coffee and desserts, the smells of freshly roasted coffee beans and the sights and sounds of the actual competition, this is one event that coffee and food connoisseurs won’t want to miss.”

A Cup of Info

The free event will be held at the Pittsburgh Marriott North in Cranberry Township, Pa. from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, February 6 through Sunday, February 8.  Competition rounds take place throughout the day so guests can arrive at any time and stay as long as they like.  Advance tickets for the dessert buffet can be purchased here.  Tickets must be purchased by Thursday, February 5 to qualify for the discount. Tickets are now available at the event.