COFFEE is often taken for granted by many people, especially those who drink it every day. Why not? Coffee comes cheap in the country, with three-in-one packs readily available almost anywhere for those who need a quick caffeine fix. Plus, with the rise of the business-process outsourcing industry comes the proliferation of 24/7 coffee shops.
Indeed, it may be easy to take for granted, as long as it is hot with our choice of cream and caffeine level, but not for the people who make it. For these people who take coffee-making to heart, every step of the process—including the farm production, grinding and roasting of every bean—is meticulously observed.
This has been the passion and bread and butter of Pete Licata, a name that has earned respect in the global barista community. Hailed as the 2013-2014 World Barista champion, Licata, from Kansas City, USA, focuses on the coffee beans, from crop to cup, to secure a quality worthy being called one of the world’s best.
Slowly but surely
LICATA was in his fourth grade when he first had a hand in real coffee-making, but it was until he was in college when he started entering competitions. As a college student studying linguistics and majoring in Japanese, he also worked as a barista in a local coffee shop. He believed in his skills as he finished second place the first time he joined a regional barista competition, only to realize later on that he still had a lot to work on to be the best in the industry.
After taking part in a workshop with Tim Wendelboe, then the 2004 World Barista champion, Licata tried his hand in competing at the US Barista Championship (USBC). Getting to the top has taken time and dedication, but in the end, his hard work resulted in becoming one of the most awarded competitors in the world.
As a barista, Licata honed his presentation skills through seven USBC competitions, where he won several top honors throughout the years, including USBC’s Western Regional champion in 2005. He finished second place during the 2010 USBC, and then took home the top spot at the 2011 USBC.
During that time, Licata was working in Hawaii, where he came across Rusty’s Hawaiian farm, owned by Filipino-American Lorie Obra, an award-winning specialty coffee farmer and producer. Through the guidance of Obra’s team, Licata hand-selected his coffee beans in Rusty’s Hawaiian farm, roasted the coffee beans himself, and made his own espresso blend.
His efforts paid off for in that same year, he placed second at the World Barista Championship in Bogotá, Colombia. He impressed the judges with a presentation of Hawaii’s top coffee from “fruit to cup.”
In 2012 he took off as a competitor to judge and coach in the 2012 USBC. The judging and coaching experience at the 2012 USBC gave him a taste of the other side—enough of an insight that would give him an edge as a competitor. He returned to the barista competition scene in 2013 and finally attained the ultimate honor and award for a Barista professional: the World Barista Championship (WBC) title.
WBC is the preeminent international coffee competition that focuses on promoting excellence in coffee, advancing the barista profession, and engaging a worldwide audience with an annual championship event that serves as the culmination of local and regional events around the globe.
Sharing the barista philosophyt
THIS year Licata visited the Philippines for a series of Barista showdowns, and to promote the second Philippine National Barista Championship, the country’s only barista competition sanctioned by World Coffee Events, organizers of the prestigious WBC.
Moreover, he wanted to increase awareness on the important role that the Filipino baristas play in advancing the local coffee industry.
“The barista community is pretty small right now,” he said. “I see very passionate and excited baristas in the Philippines, and I believe the community is growing.”
“Learn all the aspects of the coffee industry,” he tells Filipino baristas. “Preparation, roasting and farm production all have huge amounts of detail to learn about. Understanding how specific methods affect the flavor in the cup will help raise you to new levels.”
“Most importantly, never give up on your dreams. Be flexible and keep an open mind to keep growing in the industry,” he said.
With his achievement of becoming the “Best Barista in the World,” Licata retired from barista competitions to concentrate on his work as a professional barista at Parisi Coffee in his homeland of Kansas City, USA. He also intends to open a training school soon to pass on the legacy.