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Monday, May 2, 2011

Ritual Takes Sixth Place in National Barista Contest

Posted By on Mon, May 2, 2011 at 12:59 PM

click to enlarge Ritual barista Kevin Bohlin, left, and Ben Kaminsky, Director of Quality Control. - RITUAL COFFEE ROASTERS
  • Ritual Coffee Roasters
  • Ritual barista Kevin Bohlin, left, and Ben Kaminsky, Director of Quality Control.

There may be no ticker-tape parade through the FiDi, but Ritual Coffee Roasters just made San Francisco proud at the United States Barista Championship in Houston this weekend. Cutely, the impressive showing coincided with Ritual's sixth anniversary, as barista Kevin Bohlin took home sixth-in-the-nation laurels. He shined bright in a field of 50 competitors, after advancing from the Southwest Regional competition in Hollywood in March.

Bohlin's success rested on his mastery of three categories: espresso, cappuccino, and a "specialty beverage" of his own design. The first two are pretty straightforward, with judging based on the color contrast between crema and espresso, the barista's grinding and tamping skills, and other subtleties that perhaps only the most devoted coffee wonk could discern. But it's the last category where the baristas really set themselves apart.

click to enlarge Kevin Bohlin preps backstage. - RITUAL COFFEE ROASTERS
  • Ritual Coffee Roasters
  • Kevin Bohlin preps backstage.

With an obvious flair for the dramatic, Bohlin made his specialty beverage an elaborate, three-part process. He started with a grand flourish, squeezing a whole pineapple on stage and pouring the juice into four 1.5-ounce glasses. The judges were instructed to take one sip of the juice, to be followed by a tiny spoonful of specialty honey. Lastly, they would drink a mixture of espresso, mineral water, and the remaining pineapple juice. We're having a hard time picturing this drink without puckering, but apparently it had the right stuff to dazzle a panel of experts.

Ritual owner Eileen Hassi is buzzing with caffeinated excitement over the victory, not to mention two wins scored by Ritual's Ben Kaminsky. For the third year in a row, Kaminsky won the USBC's Cup Tasters award, as well as placing sixth in the new Brewers Cup competition. But hold on: With two sixth-place awards happening near Ritual's sixth anniversary, we're seeing an ominous three sixes here. Here's hoping that Hassi didn't head to the crossroads for this week's good fortune...

New York refugee Jesse Hirsch tweets at @Jesse_Hirsch. Follow SFoodie at @sfoodie, and like us on Facebook.

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