The Championship Gambit: Rwanda Maraba Espresso

[flickr-photo:id=3533691455,size=m]For the uninitiated, the idea of a barista championship might seem about as exciting as competitive crossword (and more on that one soon...). But in the world of specialty coffee, the various barista competitions are very serious business. Baristas train all year to craft espresso drinks with exacting precision. Roasters tweak blends and roasts, timing the production to maximize flavors at the precise time of competition. Grinders are modified and lugged around the world with the hope of providing the slightest edge in producing consistent and predictable extractions.

Intelligentsia's Mike Phillips won the US Barista Championship with an extraordinary preparation of the Bolivia Anjilanaka single origin espresso. The Intelli roasting crew had gone to great lengths to produce single origin roasts for the US championships in Portland, with special roasts of the Bolivia, Yirgacheffe, and Guatemala coffees for their four different baristas. In the end, Mike Phillips won the US title. Having tried Mike Phillip's Anjilanaka espresso from the US Barista Championship, I was skeptical when I heard that he was switching to a Rwanda Cup of Excellence-winning coffee for his World Barista Championship try. Then I had the chance to try it myself, first as a syphon brew and then as an espresso. I'm not sure about the "articulate" description (it speaks well for itself?), but tamarind and gingersnap is spot on. It is stunning.

Mike put on an amazing performance at the World finals in Atlanta last month, taking third out of a field of nearly sixty (you can watch the video of his performance here). Just after the competition, Volta was able to offer a very limited amount of Mike's competition Rwanda espresso. We're pleased to be able to offer it again this week on the second grinder. Not only did the coffee help to propel Mike to the finals, it itself was a winner in the Rwandan Cup of Excellence competition. Produced by the Abahuzamugambi Bakawa (“Together we work the coffee”) cooperative, the coffee had placed sixth out of all of the lots submitted for evaluation as the best coffees produced in Rwanda last year. Just fifteen bags of the coffee were available, with the lot split between Intelli and two other companies for $8.20 a pound green. In other words, we're talking about a very rare and limited coffee.

Volta is very pleased to have the Maraba espresso back on tap. I'd strongly suggest it as a straight espresso or as a macchiato to get the full expression of the coffee, but it is also spectacular as a cappuccino. The Rwanda CoE Maraba espresso is a .75 upcharge to the price of any of our espresso drinks.