After the SERJ, notes from the weekend

Wow, what a weekend.

Lots has already been said about the big bash – the Saturday Night latte art Throwdown & “coffee family reunion”. A great party, a great night, a great way to cap off a weekend chock-full of coffee greatness. The tagged pictures, uploaded videos, and blog posts attempting to capture the evening are still flowing. It’s already been called “EPIC”. Sound like a movie? OK, get ready for the prequel…

We called it “The SERJ”.

Thursday night, a little before 7:00. James Spano of Cup to Cup in Savannah wanders in to The Coffee Garden, the first to arrive for the welcome party. Luckily, he brought an iPod, as I’d forgotten to line up music… so we chilled to Miles Davis for a while. The fact that his was only the first of several guest playlists to provide backdrop for the night was a fitting preview of things to come. It was a barista DIY coffee weekend: organized by, financed by, researched by, presented by, and attended by baristas, for baristas.

Friday morning at Counter Culture’s Charlotte Training Center. Coffee and bananas. Lots and lots of bananas. Did you know that the potassium in bananas helps the human body deal with the effects of caffeine? Brent Hall of Counter Culture Coffee follows this tidbit up with the first half of a session “Breaking Down the Blend”. He leads the group through a series of shots pulled with the different SO components of an espresso blend, discussing the contributions that each will make to the final cup: body, acidity, flavors, crema. Now its up to Lem Butler, also of Counter Culture Coffee, to discuss dialing in strategies. He talks lipids and cyclic organic acids, diagrams roast degree and brew temperature, he balances grind and dose. We use the +4U to full advantage. We balance body and acidity. We have many espressos, and the banana population suffers.

Friday afternoon. Equipment basics. Brent talks while I draw pictures. Boiler configurations. Machine basics. Grinders. Cleaning schedules. Then, almost as quickly as it begins, we are off to Dilworth Coffee Company for a class on Customer Service. This is one of many opportunities for the group attending the SouthEast Regional Jam to combine with the group attending the SouthEast Skill Building Workshop. Lots of tips from Lydia Iannetti of Counter Culture. Did we mention roleplay? Sorry, Jason, no chocolate chip cookie dough cappuccinos for you today.

Friday evening. Some time to play on the Aurelias at Dilworth, then going our separate ways. Tomorrow’s hangover will be brought to you by Van Gogh’s Double Espresso Vodka.

Saturday morning, back at Counter Culture. We’re joined by a freshly-married Ben Helfen of Atlanta’s Octane Coffee. Ben and Lem join forces to share their thoughts, tips, stories, and strategies for success at barista competition. Great thoughts on creating signature drinks, preparing, packing, and presenting at regionals and beyond. Look out, 2010 USBC, the SouthEast is rising…

Saturday afternoon. Shannon Hudgens of Greenville SC’s Coffee and Crema joins us for the afternoon. We flock to the manual brew bar to take turns making Chemex, french press, and pourover. We taste the results of a Clever Dripper head-to-head showdown. Shannon demos a siphon, and we marvel at the differences seen in the resulting brews. Mmmm… beefy. After a break, we’re joined by The Coffee Institute’s Chris Deferio, Dilworth Coffee’s Jason Dominy, and Octane’s Tony Riffle for a community building roundtable. We share experiences organizing barista and customer oriented events and learn how to unlock the promotional power of Facebook. The seeds of new coffee communities are planted.

Then, we jam. At Counter Culture, the FB-80, Paddle Group Linea, and +4U get a workout. Fundamentals are practiced, preinfusion dabbled in, and milk texture refined. Meanwhile, across I-77 at Dilworth, Aurelias are being warmed up, art is being practiced, and beer is being chilled for the evening’s extravaganza.

Saturday night. Hard to beat “EPIC” as a description. Lem Butler is the DJ, Jason Dominy the MC. MJ lives again, Bon Jovi went M.I.A. Nashville, Asheville, Charlotte, Greenville, Atlanta… they all brought it. City vs City? in the end it was too close to call…

My overall impression? I was struck by the amazing talent and depth of knowledge of the baristas in our community It was inspiring to see so many take pride in our community to the point that they would drive all night, sleep on sofas and floors, spend time away from loved ones, and work their tails off just to help make it stronger. As Ben Helfen reminded us, a rising tide floats all boats. This weekend, we all saw the tide rise.

Ready for the credits?

Thanks to everyone that took time to attend: Paul Yates, James Spano, Scott Satterwhite, Katie Porter, Patty Parris, Angela Poe, Dan Pabst, Liz Gilliom, Tripp Gandy, Dave Delchamps, and Jonathan Taylor. Thanks to presenters: Lem Butler, Brent Hall, Lydia Iannetti, Ben Helfen, Shannon Hudgens, Jason Dominy, Tony Riffle.

Thanks to Brent Hall, for working out all of the details, keeping the momentum going, and letting us invade your training center for a few days. Thanks to Jason Dominy for getting this whole thing started, and for working out the BGA and SCAA details. Thanks to Sandy May for being Switzerland when we needed it. Thanks to Jerry Butler for hosting us Thursday night. Thanks to Mary, for doing all of the little things that needed to be done. Oh, and thanks to the rest of you, for reading this and keeping me motivated (the blog got HOW MANY HITS!?).

We couldn’t have done it without you all.



~ by southeastregion on November 17, 2009.

3 Responses to “After the SERJ, notes from the weekend”

  1. well said. well done. cheers all. southeast coffee family representin.

  2. Great synopsis, Brady! I want to go to another one!

  3. Great event! thanks everyone!!! Hey Brady, let me know when you post the transcripts from the labs. I would love to see them.

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