Gapers Block reports that Intelligentsia barista Mike Phillips (from the Broadway store) took top honors yesterday in the U.S. Barista Championship, held in Portland, Oregon. Why do baristas need a competition? A 2007 Reader feature by Tasneem Paghdiwala explained:
The point of the competition . . . is to elevate the status of both coffee and the people who serve it. He says coffee is every bit as sophisticated as wine but its drinkers don’t have the vocabulary to articulate what they like. . . . The barista should be a 'respected craftsperson, like a sommelier or a pastry chef. . . . We want the consumer to understand that the difference between a cappuccino served by a national barista champion like Matt Riddle versus one served by a high school kid in a green apron making six bucks an hour is like night and day.
Intelligentsia intends to help with that. The Tribune's Monica Eng reported recently that a new store in Venice Beach will offer door-to-table service from personal sommelier-like servers.