By KRISSI HUMBARD — Two members of the Vigilante Coffee Co. team are headed to New Orleans to compete for a spot in the national coffee championships.
Diane Contreras, Vigilante’s director of training, and Franklin Ventura, the shop’s head roaster, took a road trip to the competition with owner Chris Vigilante (and Vigilante’s dog/team mascot, Harold). Ventura will be competing in the Roasters Competition on Saturday at 2:16 p.m. Contreras will compete in the Barista Competition on Sunday at 3:46 p.m. (Central Time Zone).
Chris Vigilante competed in the U.S. Roasters Competition last year and placed fifth. Like last year, the team took a roadtrip and popped up in cities along the way — this year in Raleigh, North Carolina, and New Orleans — to serve their coffee and share a little piece of Hyattsville before the competition.
To get to the main competition, Ventura and Contreras must first compete in CoffeeChamps: U.S. Coffee Championships Qualifying Competitions in New Orleans. Just 12 competitors from the Roaster Qualifying Competition and 36 competitors from the Barista Qualifying Competition will move on to the U.S. Coffee Championships in Seattle.
The U.S. Roaster Championship is designed to highlight the art and craft of coffee roasting. Ventura was sent a bag of green coffee beans, which he then roasted. The roasted coffee will be judged in a blind tasting and then competitors will present their compulsory roasted coffee to the judges and serve it to the CoffeeChamps audience and attendees.
The U.S. Barista Championship is a platform for baristas to enhance their espresso beverage making skills. Contreras will have 10 minutes to make espressos and a signature beverage, while also presenting tasting notes and brewing techniques, for four judges. Contreras designed her signature beverage with a nod to her grandmother and her heritage: She made a guava syrup to mix with her espresso, adding chili powder to the rim of the glass to incorporate a little kick.
Specialty coffee has gained in popularity in the D.C. area in the last few years, with cafes and coffee shops now in practically every neighborhood in D.C. The Vigilante team will have some local competition in New Orleans: Five baristas from D.C. coffee shops will be competing in the U.S. Barista Championship.
You can cheer on Ventura and Contreras from afar by watching the live stream of the competition online.