The most skilled and professional baristas from around the country are preparing to battle for the coveted title of the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s (SCAA) 2008 United States Barista Championship (USBC), hosted by Krups. The heated four-day competition begins on May 2 in Minneapolis, Minn. and concludes with a final round and champion’s ceremony on May 5 at the Minneapolis Convention Center. SCAA is the world’s largest coffee trade association, and Krups, the title sponsor of the event, is a leading manufacturer of premium home espresso and coffee machines. The event takes place in conjunction with SCAA’s 20th Annual Specialty Coffee Conference & Exhibition, also May 2 – 5.

As the industry’s most hotly anticipated contest for coffeehouse professionals, the USBC encourages and recognizes achievement in the art and skill of espresso drink preparation and service. During the competition, the nation’s best baristas create some of the world’s finest coffee concoctions. Challengers prepare and serve 12 orders–four espressos, four cappuccinos and four original signature drinks of their own creation–all within a 15-minute timeframe. As they ready their coffee beverages, contestants engage the audience, explaining their actions and selections, while expertly working the competition’s official espresso machine, a three-group La Marzocco

Seven USBC-certified judges, including one head judge, two technical judges and four sensory judges, carefully evaluate and score each of the contenders. Judges focus on station cleanliness, taste, beverage presentation, technical skills and total impression.

Last year, Heather Perry of Coffee Klatch in San Dimas, Calif., took the top spot in the USBC. Perry also went on to represent the United States in the World Barista Championship, where she took second place.

The new 2008 United States Barista Champion receives the highest national honor for a barista, a trophy, $1,000 in cash, and an all-expenses paid trip from his or her hometown to the 2008 World Barista Championship in Copenhagen, Denmark, June 19 – 22, 2008, hosted by the Specialty Coffee Association of Europe and held at its “Wonderful Coffee” event.

USBC Schedule of Events:

Friday, May 2 – Round One, 9 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Saturday, May 3 – Round One continues, 9 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Sunday, May 4 – Semi-Finals, 9 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Monday, May 5 – Finals, 12 – 2:30 p.m.; Awards ceremony, 3 – 3:30 p.m.

The 2008 United States Barista Championship is just one of the many highlights at SCAA’s 20th Annual Conference & Exhibition. As the industry’s premier coffee event, the conference features in-depth educational sessions, hundreds of exhibit booths, a keynote presentation from Michael Shuman, author of “The Small-Mart Revolution,” and the Coffee of the Year Competition.

Complete details for SCAA’s 20th Annual Conference & Exhibition are available at the SCAA Conference Website.