Remember when we posted about Coffee Fest Seattle 2012? Things looked a little different for Slate back then. No brewers cup win, no airstream, no coffee bar… Its remarkable to see how far we have come in a year. We couldn’t have done it without you so thank you all for your support!
And that brings us full circle: Coffee Fest Seattle 2013!
This first weekend in October was host to all the usual trade show festivities: booths packed with espresso machines, roasters, pastries, equipment, filtration systems, importers, chocolate and just about everything you could imagine in a coffee shop or roasting facility. Like last year, the highlights of the weekend were the three showcase competitions sponsored by Coffee Fest: America’s Best Espresso, The Latte Art World Championship Open, and America’s Best Coffeehouse… But more on that later.
Outside of Coffee Fest itself, there were several awesome events to be attended. These included a repeat of the annual Neptune TNT, several informal throwdowns and the debut of the Northwest Latte Art League. These were great events for relaxation, meeting industry leaders and spending time with friends, all of which Slate’s team handled thoroughly.
However, the main reason we were so excited for this weekend was our involvement in ABC, America’s Best Coffeehouse competition. Last year, Brandon participated in this competition as a customer judge in order to learn from other competitors. This year, Slate was ready to put our best foot forward.
America’s Best Coffeehouse is a competition that is meant to “evaluate teamwork, hospitality, aptitude, professionalism, presentation and limits” but the whole thing begins with an application explaining why your coffee house should be selected to compete. Based on this application, up to 20 cafes are selected for a secret, in-store evaluation based on service, quality, ambiance, cleanliness, organization and efficiency. Finally, from these visits, six top-competitors are chosen to compete at the Coffee Fest Show.
Slate was proud to be one of the six semi-finalists along with such other talented shops like Caffe Ladro, Metronome and last year’s 3rd place finishers Dog River Coffee. The competition is meant to enable participation from the broadest range of coffee shops so the menu requires beverages not normally found at Slate like flavored lattes and daily specials. From our perspective, if we were going to offer them, we were going to make them the best possible drinks we could and with that, we set to work.
After choosing which coffees to use for espresso and manual brews, we had to decide on a flavored syrup and a daily special. The competition team, Chelsey, Nik and Brandon came up with a handmade peach-ginger syrup to pair well with the sweet caramel flavor of the Mauricio Fadul espresso. The daily special, however, proved to be more complicated. We decided on our Kenya Karagoto served four different ways.
1. Iced Coffee – Hot brewed concentrate poured over iced to chill and to correct dilution. Emphasis on the inherent balance between sweetness, acidity and bitterness.
2. Foam – Over-extracted iced Karogoto shaken to emulsify coffee oils, which rise to the surface. Emphasis on slight bitterness to put other flavors in context.
3. Glaze – Under-extracted Karogoto mixed with lemon. Emphasis on natural brightness.
4. Oyster Pearl – Karogoto reduced with brown sugar and blackberries, complementing intrinsic flavors, spherified with a liquid center. Emphasis on lingering sweetness and surprise.
After competing on Friday, we had to wait a whole day to find out which teams made the finals. Happily Slate was the first team announced, followed by Dog River Coffee and Seattle staple, Caffe Ladro.
Competing again on Sunday, Chelsey, Nik and Brandon made some adjustments to their work flow and service style and waited for the other teams to finish their own competition time. At 4 pm, the competitors from all three competitions gathered round to anxiously await the announcements. With several rounds of applause for all the sponsors and the announcements of the Best Espresso and Latte art winners preceding the Best Coffeehouse announcement, the tension continued to mount. As the finalists were finally announced, I am happy to report that Slate was crowned the winner! A huge congratulations goes to Caffe Ladro and Dog River who took 3rd and 2nd respectively as well as Best Espresso winner Tony’s Coffee and 2nd time Latte Art winner, Cabell Tice.
At the end of the day, Slate is proud to take home the trophy for Seattle and thankful to all those who have supported our work throughout. This one’s for you!
Thanks for reading and hope to see you soon,
Slate Coffee Roasters