The word is almost as exotic as its function – barista. It is Italian for “bartender” and its application in Italy referred more to people who worked in cafés mixing cocktails and serving wine and were masters of their craft. In the Americas, the term has come to refer to those men and women who make coffee-based drinks. Like their European counterparts, the coffee-making baristas are also people who aspire to be masters of their craft. S&D Coffee & Tea has such a coffee professional in Brent Hall, who has helped guide and educate people in the preparation and appreciation of coffee since 2005.
Hall will serve as a Judge in the Big Eastern Barista Competition in Durham, North Carolina, beginning Saturday, January 18. That event is part of the U.S. Coffee Championships and is sponsored by the Specialty Coffee Association of America and the Barista Guild of America.
“A barista should be a steward of the industry, acting as the last impression a single coffee bean can make on a customer,” Hall says. “As baristas, we are the final step in a long journey before coffee is enjoyed by others. Not only should we defend coffee by presenting it in its best light, we should also celebrate it for the many lives it touched to get to us.”
S&D may be more in tune with the many lives coffee touches on its way to our tables, as it works with coffee growers and harvesters throughout the world, selects the highest quality beans, then carefully roasts them for use in restaurants, convenience stores, and hotels throughout the country. Hall works as a Beverage Technologist in Research & Development for S&D and his prime focus is all things dealing with roasted coffee. He also maintains an abiding interest in Baristas.
“At S&D we are entering the barista realm slowly and confidently,” Hall adds. “We hold the barista community in high regard and want to be sure our support is appropriately guided. We have limited experience here, and we are looking for new entry points every day from sponsorships to physical volunteer support, namely my participating as a United States Coffee Championships Judge.”
For Hall, promoting the barista and working with S&D to help support baristas and spread the word comes down to having an ongoing love affair with coffee.
“It is important that we honor the establishments that employ us by offering a certain devotion to creating the best experience for our customers,” Hall concludes. “A barista should be able to speak knowledgably about the coffee they are serving and be open to discussions about the industry both exciting and controversial. Baristas should continuously challenge their technique and always explore the world of coffee.”