Coffees of the WBC's

Author: Brent Posted: May 1, 2009

Much has been written about the recent WBC in Atlanta.  What we offer here is a compiled profile of the top six coffees … and the unknown story behind one competitor’s coffee.  New contributor to CHD and WBC head judge Brent Fortune takes an exclusive peek behind the hoppers at the WBC.

There are so many things to share about this years WBC’s, I could write lots and lots of posts, about things like:

1. The new stadium seating layout – first created by the Western Regional in LA, then by the USBC Portland – creating a more intimate space and greater visability (and airflow) for the competitors.

2. The absence of any Scandinavian competitors in the final 6 (or even the top 8).

3. The first use of the new WBC rules allowing for serving cappuccinos and/or espressos in sets.  That, combined with the new layout, made for a much friendlier & more interesting competition for competitors, judges and audience.

4. The first good sized WBC Cafe offering four drink stations with a pour over bar, espressos, capps, and signature drinks from past champions.

5. Five former World Champions all standing on the WBC stage: Fritz Storm – 2002; Tim Wendleboe – 2004; Troels Overdal Poulsen – 2005; James Hoffman – 2007; and Stephen Morrissey – 2008.

6. Two first time nations in the top six, and the innovative signature drinks by Gwilym and Michael Phillips.

Each topic could be its own post!  But what I really wanted to focus on is some of the coffee used in this year’s WBC, and in particular, the coffee of one special competitor. So thus begins a CHD post as long as the LOTR triology. Much that once was is lost, for none now live who remember it. It began with the forging of the Great Tampers. Three were given to the Baristas, immortal, wisest and fairest of all beings. One ring to rule them all. (j/k)

First, lets review the beans of the WBC top six…

Colin – Champion of Ireland  & WBC 4th place

Colin was using a coffee from Boliva called Machaca Marca.  It was a fully washed and sun dried coffee, 80% typica and 20% caturra. Toffee and malt with a sharp acidity at the end.  I tasted these shots and they were just as he described – and completely delicious! I ordered two bags of the coffee from his roaster in Ireland and they just arrived. The farm is a former COE winner. Here’s a picture of those beans:

Colin's Bolivia - Photo by
Colin's Bolivia - Photo by

Michael – Champion of USA & WBC 3rd Place

Michael used a coffee from Rwanda called Maraba – different from the coffee he used in the USBC. He served the coffee “5 ways” (Eva Solo, espresso, cappuccinos, and split into first and second part of the extraction, one served hot & the other cold, for his signature drink).  He played with the dose and grind during his presentation.  As an espresso, he described the Rwanda as red fruit taste, sour tamarind with a baking spice finish. I had a shot of it at the Intelly booth and it was THE best shot I had all WBC/SCAA weekend.  It is one of Intelly’s Reserve coffees (and there’s not much left) which they only roast on Mondays. Some bags of this are en route to me right now and my mouth is already watering for it.

Sammy – Champion of Canada & WBC 2nd Place

Sammy's beans - Photo by
Sammy's beans - Photo by

Sammy was using a 2-bean blend of Costa Rica Herbazu and a Yirgacheffe Aricha microlot.  He described his coffee in two words: grapefruit and caramel.  Judges reported that it tasted exactly of those descriptors, which explains the 2nd place finish.

Gwilym – Champion of UK and 2009 World Champion

The winning coffee in the WBC was a single origin Del Obispo Huila Colombian (espresso & capps), roasted by Anette of Square Mile who is now 3 for 3 (surprise). It was 10 days post roast, and His espresso is described as tasting of hot buttered toast smothered in blackberry jam, along with black current and a toffee end.  In milk it has a “jammy sweetness” which may remind some of a certain WBC Tokyo performance :)

His signature drink involves envelopes listing possible ingredients (there were 4 in each envelope, and each judge selected one from the four). His coffee here was a Colonia San Juan 8 Estrellas, Bolivia. James says “It is a very lovely coffee, and suited the sig drink because it was balanced but not aggresively characterful. Sweet and caramelly but as espresso not too much more.  What is a positive trait could easily seem a negative one, it was just very versatile when paired with other flavours.”  It was 10 days out and dosed similarly to the first coffee, maybe a touch less.

Champ's beans - Photo by
Champ's beans - Photo by

Attila – Champion of Hungary & WBC 6th Place

Atilla, a first for Hungary in WBC finals, used a Yirgacheffe Beloya SO for each of his coffee courses roasted by Estate Coffee in Copenhagen.

Atilla's cap - Photo by
Atilla's cap - Photo by

Twitchy didn’t have a good pic of his beans, but here is a nice one of his capps for your eyes only.

Lee Jong – Champion of South Korea & WBC 5th Place

The champion of South Korea was the first of his country to make WBC finals.  His two coffee approach showcased an El Salvador COE selection of a washed sundried bourbon (espresso).  For his cappuccino, he used a Costa Rica La Planada mechanically washed coffee.

Koreas beanz - Photo by
Koreas beanz - Photo by

Lee Jong of South Korea and his El Salvador COE beans.

A Team Effort

One of the most interesting, and possibly most untold stories of WBC coffees, is of the top scoring barista from Central America.  Raul Rodas is 22 years old, and the two-time barista Champion of Guatemala.  Raul’s WBC performance put him in 7th place in the WORLD, with a beautiful coffee that several people helped to get to the WBC. (Last year in Copenhagen, he took 25th place.)  This was the first time ANY barista from Central America has ever placed in the top 10 in the WBC’s. (In this historic year there were TWO, Flor de Maria from El Salvador placed 9th.)

Raul was using a single origin, new crop coffee from Huehuetenango called La Maravilla.  He discovered this coffee when he saw it being used by Ryan Wilbur and Nick Griffith in the US Western Regional Barista Comp in Los Angeles back in January.  Nick & Ryan both work at Intelly and became fast friends with Raul.  Realizing that a single orgin Guat could put you in 1st & 3rd place in the toughest region in the USA, Raul wanted to know more about this coffee.

Upon returning to Guatemala, he contacted the producer of that coffee, Mauricio Rosales, who offered to send Raul some green samples of his new 2009 crop.  Raul received several samples of the fresh green beans.  Two bags of this green were secretly carried across the US border inside a suitcase, then quickly shipped by FedEx to Deaton, the head roaster for Intelly in LA. Deaton roasted the two lots 3 different ways, then cupped them and had them evaluated by other coffee tasters.  It was agreed that one of the lots was complex and delicious enough to be worthy of a WBC espresso.

Next, Geoff Watts of Intelly and Mauricio (the producer) managed to meet with Raul for dinner in Guatemala City.  Mauricio was happy to hear or Raul’s interest in his coffee and offered to work with Geoff to get some of that green to Chicago in time for WBC roasting.  Because the coffee was so new and recently harvested, it would have to be air shipped to arrive in time.  Enter Edwin Martinez, another producer from Huehuetenango who owns a farm called Finca Vista Hermosa (a neighbor of Mauricio, but no connection). Edwin offered to import the coffee to Seattle (air shipment) and then ship the coffee to Chicago.  All of this happened just 10 days before the start of the WBC.  The green coffee finally arrived in Chicago, and was roasted by Geoff Watts and his team, then driven to Atlanta along with the Intelligentsia booth, Doug Zell, Mike Phillips, and WBC Champion Stephen Morrissey (who will soon be working for Intelly). Once the coffee arrived in Atlanta, it was delivered to Raul.

Raulito - Photo by
Raulito - Photo by

Raul Roadas – Champion of Guatemala. Highest placing Central American barista in history.

There was still one problem.  Raul works for a roaster and retailer in Guatemala called & Cafe.  Raul’s bosses believed that he would be using one of & Cafe coffees in the WBC.  Raul had to use the special lot of La Maravilla, roasted by Intelly, being very careful not to disclose the true story behind these beans.  Several members of the Anacafe (Guatemala coffee association) were in on the secret, as were a few or Raul’s co-workers. So, although this coffee was just on the drying patios in Guatemala less than 3 weeks before the WBC, Raul wasn’t able to tell his judges the story of how his remarkable coffee came to be in his possession, or about the people who helped to get the coffee imported, roasted, and transported to Atlanta.

As if that wasn’t enough drama for one performance, the music that Raul was using had just been burned onto a CD a few minutes before he started his presentatio.  The mix, made in Silverlake, CA by Ryan of Intelligentsia, had been emailed to Atlanta that morning, and some of Raul’s friends had to scramble around the convention center to come up with a blank CD. The disc was popped into a Mac, the secret WiFi connection was borrowed to access the email, and the disc was burned and walked over to the A/V all while Raul was in his 15 minute prep time.  He was hearing the music mix for the FIRST TIME as he was presenting.

Watching Raul’s performance from the front row, I found tears welling up in my eyes, knowing the story – and the stress involved – in getting this coffee to the WBC.  It was remarkable to see how all these people – Deaton, Geoff, Mauricio, Edwin, Doug Zell and the Chicago roasting team – were all willing to help get the coffee for Raul without expecting anything in return except Raul’s success in the competition.  They all incurred time and/or expense, sometimes out of their own pockets, to help make this happen.

So the moral of the story: specialty coffee is full of everyday heroes who are willing to lend their time and support to a good cause, and together they can create champions.

Here’s a picture of me judging and looking a bit too serious…. errr… intense?  … maybe focused? tasted so many espressos I no longer have proper brain function?

br33zy - Photo by
br33zy - Photo by

Thanks to Liz Clayton/Twitchy for sharing her great photos.  Thanks to Raul Rodas for his bravery and for taking risks in the name of good coffee.  And thanks to all the WBC competitors for putting themselves out there and making the 10th Annual WBC the best so far!

And thanks for reading this epic.

And some things that should not have been forgotten were lost. History became legend; legend became myth.

Brent “Breezy” Fortune serves on the Judge Certification Committee of the WBC and wrangles judges around the globe. He is the owner of Crema Coffee & Bakery, Portland, Oregon making him a member of the Crema International, Inc. His hobbies include figuring out how to make a syphon go, a mild obsession with cats, and exploring coffee at his homeboy’s cafe – Barista.

6 Responses to “Coffees of the WBC's

  1. george says:

    I heard shortly after the WBC finalists were announced what was left of Raul’s coffee was taken from the hopper by a few men in suits and has since been deemed “classified” until further notice.

    Wow though, what a story! Talk about a coffee that literally went from farmer to roaster to barista.

    I’ll be trying Sammy’s blend tomorrow up here in Vancouver.

    Great entry Brent!

  2. Wes says:

    I first met Raul in January at the &Cafe in Antigua. Cheered him on in Atlanta. He’s determined and wish him the best. Great finding a story on him.

    Wes – Blue Moose Hope BC

  3. jose says:

    raul rodas!!! he’s the best!!!

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