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Local coffee roasters nominated for national awards

Tacoma, Olympia spots represent in America’s Best Espresso Contest

Coffee art: Competition at Coffee Fest includes a head-to-head bracket style where judges will evaluate the shots of espresso from each competitor in the categories of flavor complexity, mouth-feel and appeal, and aftertaste. Photo by Daniel Thompson/B

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A couple of the region's top coffee roasters will square off this weekend in the America's Best Espresso Contest at the 20th annual Coffee Fest in Issaquah.  

Madrona Coffee Roasting in Tacoma and the Olympia Coffee Roasting Company are among 32 competitors in the Western region.

The Coffee Fest runs Friday through Sunday, and while the exhibition floor will be full of highly-caffeinated coffee lovers and all things coffee, the competitions are what really make this event exciting.

Latte Art, Best Coffeehouse and Best Espresso are on the table for competitors all over America. (New York and Chicago both have upcoming events.)

The competition is head-to-head bracket style and judges will evaluate the shots of espresso from each competitor in the categories of flavor complexity, mouth-feel and appeal, and aftertaste.

Charlie Banner is the founder of Madrona Coffee Company and jokes that he has been a coffee lover since "it was legal for me to drink it."

Banner plans to bring his special blend of espresso, called Ellie's Gold Blend, named after his daughter, to wow judges.

"I like blends," Banner says. "It's classic espresso and more complex. With growing and brewing there are so many variables and a lot more flavors."

Olympia Coffee Roasting also plans to bring a blend called Big Truck.

Jared Gummm is the representing barista who placed fifth in the nation last year at Coffee Fest's Brewer's Cup Barista Competition.

"I want to make the judge's mouths cry," says Gummm, who adds that the he wants a "perfectly balanced espresso with flavors that are candy sweet, fruity and chocolatey."

The competition will be friendly - as there is much admiration and camaraderie in the coffee world - but it will also be stiff.

First up, Madrona Coffee Company will go head to head with Victrola Coffee Roasters (Seattle) and Olympia Coffee Roasting will face Espresso Vivace. Both opposing contenders have a strong reputation and darn good coffee.

"Vivace literally wrote the book on espresso," says Sam Schroeder, owner of Olympia Coffee Roasting. "It'll be old-school famous Seattle roasters versus the young guns."

Banner might very well speak for all involved when he says, "We're just excited to be there with other respected people in the industry."

The first place winner gets an America's Best Espresso Championship trophy, and of course, years of bragging rights.

(Coffee Fest, 340 East Sunset Way Suite 201, Issaquah, (425) 295-3300.

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