Our Belle is also Belle of the Ball here in DC as both the second youngest competitor and one of only two women to make the finals of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Barista Championships.
The championships will be held on Sunday at noon.
Belle matched her technical skills and creativity against baristas from Maryland, New Jersey, DC and the Philly area. She won over the judges with her fluid technical competence, the taste and consistency of her espressos and cappuccinos and in the creativity exhibited in her signature drink, a "reverse" macchiato of fig-infused milk marked with espresso and served in glasses rimmed with hazelnut and raw sugar.
All competitors must work with the same grinder and espresso machine, but unlike the latte art contest, the competitors may choose their own coffee, milk and other ingredients. Each competitor is required to make four espressos, four cappuccinos and four signature drinks of their choosing within a fifteen minute time period.
Competitors must not only have technical competence and the ability to pull great shots, they must also prove themselves as people-friendly servers. The rules require that competitors personally serve the four judges and talk them throughout the entire 15 minute process (competitors are all miked for this purpose).
Competitors also choose their "performance music". This gets interesting - one competitor had his entire routine choreographic to his music. Belle chose one of the CDs from the store, which features many of the songs used in Fellini's movies.
As anyone who's done public speaking can attest, fifteen minutes is a long time to talk. It's especially difficult to fill 15 minutes talking about your coffee drinks. So competitors engage the judges with anecdotes and small talk for "fill". Belle discussed her recent marriage to Frank, her grandmother's napkins and her rationale to go with dried fruit as her theme.
Her enthusiasm, knowledge, skills and charm got her through the first cut. Hopefully it's enough to help her win the grand prize tomorrow, but the competition is extremely talented. Like Andi in the Latte Art Competition, whether Belle wins it all or not is less important than how she's grown professionally simply from preparing for this competition. And by competing and making the finals, she's making new friends, growing in the barista community and establishing her credentials in the coffee business.
Congratulations Belle, we're proud of you and delighted for you.