Where do you find the best barista?

  • Tue Mar 13th, 2012 7:19pm

<b>DINING OUT | </b>By Mina Williams Herald writer

The flavor of the fruit is affected by where it was grown. The Pacific Rim varieties are pungent, like Syrah. African berries have a floral appeal with perfect acidity. This has a broad, aromatic pallet.

No, these comments were not overheard at the last winemaker’s dinner. They are descriptors of coffee beans. And this is only part of what your barista has to know to prepare you the perfect cup of joe.

That smiling face, ready to serve you, should be termed as a sommelier with beans and water.

The barista, or bartender in Italian, has one purpose: to make good espresso in the coffee universe.

The success comes with skill in preparing and pulling the shot, whether from a push-button automated machine or using an old-school manual process device with levers and dials.

It all starts with adjusting the grind of the beans, then dosing or adding the express amount of grinds for the shot, tamping the coffee by pressing down the espresso in the basket with perfection, then leveling, tapping or stirring to obtain the perfect extraction.

Considered a skilled task, coffee drinks are now being staged with weights and measures. Baristas carefully weigh coffee and water to specific ratios to coax the best the beans can deliver before marrying heated water and grinds in a soupy bliss that is slowly stirred and strained.

Frothing and pouring milk adds another complexity to crafting the cup. Some baristas ramp up to the challenge and create art in a cup using a palate of frothy steamed milk on a coffee canvas.

Competitors in this art form dazzle judges with swirl and curls of frothed milk crafted into intricate designs. Aesthetics, definition, color infusion, difficulty, creativity and speed are all considered.

Ryan Soeder, of Seattle’s Starbucks, came in third at last year’s Seattle Coffeefest in September 2011, following his first place win at the Chicago competition in June.

Like wine, coffee has a myriad of tastes and aromas – body or mouth feel, oiliness, sweetness, acidity and aftertaste – just like wine.

Only your barista knows for sure.

Barista technique may prove the perfect cup, but what service style keeps you coming back to the coffee bar? What special selection do you crave after a long weekend’s absence?

The BEST Baristas are at the Lynnwood Starbucks on 44th and 196th St. The girls there are always so cheerful and happy! They make me want to hang around and talk all day. That is my FAVORITE Starbucks!

Cathi, Lynnwood

Caffe Ladro Lynnwood.

Julie, Seattle

Espresso Break, Mountlake Terrace!!! They can make your day!!!!!

Jim, Shoreline

Speed Trap and Mixers are my favorite girls!

Karol, Lynnwood

I LOVE going to the Starbucks at Pike Place. I’m not a huge Starbucks person, and I hate fighting a crowd, so you’d think I wouldn’t like it there. But the baristas make that place just fantastic!

NaShea, Edmonds

Where to find…

Caffe Ladro

Where: 6314 196th St. SW, Lynnwood

Espresso Break Coffee Stand

Where: 23208 56th Ave. W, Mountlake Terrace

Speed Trap Espresso

Where: 4130 Alderwood Mall Blvd. Lynnwood

Mixer’s Espresso

Where: 19211 Filbert Road, Bothell