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Baristas riding a tidal wave

From the July 2017 issue.

Baristas could be key to survival through coffee’s next wave.

Kyle Ramage

When Kyle Ramage set foot in the Washington Convention Centre in Seattle last April, he may as well have been set to star in a theatrical Broadway performance.

Every detail in his demonstration of craft coffee skills was second nature by now. After all, he had run through it up to six times daily in the months leading up to the event. Hand gestures, body position and speech were perfectly choreographed to demonstrate artistic ability as he led judges on a 15-minute journey through coffee preparation.

The co-star of his act, Finca Nuguo Geisha coffee, picked and processed just two months earlier, was no doubt a significant wow factor in the first-class production.

But considering he hadn’t even qualified to compete in the event the previous year, Ramage was understandably shocked when he was named the 2017 US Barista Champion.

“I was incredibly surprised,” Ramage tells Global Coffee Report. “I hyperventilated. I did not expect to be called.”

It’s clear that earning one of the highest forms of respect as a barista is no simple feat. And yet, the pre-requisites for a shot at the esteemed title allude to a very different job description than it demanded twenty years ago.

“For so long we were these militant coffee evangelists,” says Ramage. “We have to meet people where they are and give them a better option to what they’re having without making them feel uncomfortable.

“There’s an amazing opportunity for coffee as a customer service experience and as a luxury.”

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