Sunday mornings in Atlanta can be wonderful. People are too preoccupied with the lovely weather, church, or just good old-fashioned lazy day doing to be bothered to get in those new-fangled contraptions we call cars and clog the streets as is usual in Atlanta. This is incredibly fortuitous if you are attempting to find Building B in the Georgia World Congress Center to go to the South East Barista Competition.
Driving up and down Northside Drive might drive you insane while looking for the coffee competition: there is a building that says "A" and then "C" but, inexplicably no "B." Unless you happen upon a friendly loading dock security guard who gives you a Narnia-esque litany of directions to the elusive building B, you may never know you actually have to go to through the Omni Hotel to get there.
So what happens when you actually get there (and the whole time the competition was actually in Building A, and several rooms away from the directions you've been given)? Well, it feels kind of like a golf match. You sit in a room surrounded by people who look kind of like they were burped out by Decatur or Little Five Points (but don't worry, you fit in) in almost utter silence as they watch and listen to a man describe the merits of his drip coffee technique.
All morose attitudes from your arduous journey aside, the competition does pick up. When barista Michael Harwood of Carrboro Coffee from Carrboro, N.C., makes four — yes really, four — different espresso and coffee drinks in 15 minutes that he has roasted himself and infused with blood orange and rosemary, you perk up. You will get jealous as the judges get to taste this concoction that the North Carolinian barista promises sparkles with notes of caramel and is complimented by the sweet acidity of the blood orange. Next year you will volunteer to be a judge.
This year there were more than 30 original competitors including baristas from Aurora Coffee in L5P, 1000 Faces in Athens and an odd cluster from Chapel Hill/Carrboro, N.C. (approximately the same distance between these two cities as there is between Kirkwood and Oakhurst). The emcee was from Chapel Hill as well.
At this point, it might be a good idea to confess that you are from Chapel HIll and spent most of your high school days in North Carolina coffee houses Driade and Open Eye (where Harwood works), so you may be a little biased. But not really, since a Carrborite ended up winning. Thanks to his herbal and floral infusions, aforementioned Michael Harwood of Carrboro Coffee can now call himself the SERBC Champion.
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