Prairie Regional Barista Championships

This past weekend Winnipeg hosted the Prairie Regional Barista Championships. It’s hard to believe how much the coffee culture in Winnipeg has changed in about three years. 2011 was when Parlour coffee opened on Main Street. Parlour was also one of my early reviews.  Since then Little Sister, Thom Bargen, Cafe Postal, and Make have all opened. The desire for specialty coffee has even spread south to Winkler, where you can find Johnny’s Java. *I’ve learned since I posted this that Manitoba’s love affair with third wave coffee shops actually began in Winkler before hitting Winnipeg.

Prairie regional sample
Some sampled coffee from the Prairie Regional Barista Championships

Video: Learning About Pour Overs

This has produced a thriving coffee community. So much so, that the Prairie Regional Barista Championships were held here. The first time in seven years they had been held outside of Alberta. I heard about them thanks to a poster at Thom Bargen
One of the things that made the event so enjoyable was the willingness of the community to share their knowledge with people like me. In the video above. Chris Hildebrand of Other Brother Roasters in Winkler, graciously spent the time showing me some of the intricacies of pour over coffee brewing. You will also hear me refer to another demo I watched. That one was done by Wesley Farnell of Eight Ounce Coffee. One of the sponsors of the event Eight Ounce Coffee specializes in equipment for specialty coffee shops, and specialty coffee drinkers.
Many things in the video may seem a bit much to some people. However, stop and think about anything in your life you’re passionate about. I’m sure you can be very particular about those things. It’s the same here.
Beyond the championships there were two other main events in the weekend. One was a movie simply called A Film About Coffee. You can still catch this film on Wed & Thurs at 7:00 pm at Cinematheque, 100 Arthur Street. The other main event was a workshop for those wishing to become baristas or to improve their barista skills.

Prairie Regional Barista Championships

The championships were the main thing that caught my eye about the weekend. First of all it sounded very interesting. Second, one of the competitors from Winnipeg was Stephen McKenzie from Parlour. As you might guess from the last name there is a personal connection.  Stephen is my nephew.
The competition works with each competitor being given 15 minutes to serve four judges, a Cappuccino, an Espresso, and a signature drink of their own choosing. In addition, there are also two technical judges, a head judge and possibly another official. At times it seemed like a Saturday Night Live Parody of a cooking competition.

Prairie regional Merchandise
Some of the merchandise available at the Prairie Regional.

I was only able to stay for a couple of the contestants when all was said and done. Fortunately Stephen went first. I enjoyed watching him at work. I also appreciated his narrative around coffee and hospitality. At one point he mentioned the Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony. This is a very hospitable practice that I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy. If the idea of Slow Food appeals to you, the Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony will as well.
I also got to watch Colton Rempel from Johnny’s Java perform. Sadly, neither made it into the top four. They were Benjamin Put, independent, your 2014 Prairie Regional Barista Champion, Cole Torode and Andreas Admas, Rosso, and Aimee Ferguson, Phil & Sebastian

I don’t know where next year’s Prairie Regional Barista Championships will be held. However, if it’s not in Winnipeg, it could be worth your while taking a road trip. Fueled of course by specialty coffee.

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