DENTON, Texas — Maybe you’ve admired a design in latte at your local coffee shop, but you’ve probably never thought of brewing coffee as a sport.
“Sport would definitely be a good way to see it,” said Conor Poull.
Pull works at West Oak Coffee Bar on Denton Square, where most customers probably don’t realize they’re being served by a fierce competitor.
“I can objectively say that I’m the best brewer in Texas,” said Poull. “That feels pretty good.”
Poull is a competitive barista. If you haven’t heard of such a thing, get ready for an eye-opener. There are national and international competitions for baristas, where people show off their skills pulling shots and brewing coffee in front of a panel of judges and TV cameras.
There’s latte art and an event called Brewer’s Cup, that focuses solely on black coffee. Competitors are judged on a variety of factors, including the aroma, acidity and aftertaste of the coffee they brew.
“It really is about finding out who can brew the best cup of coffee,” said Poull.
Pour-over coffee is Poull’s specialty. The technique requires the brewer to use the perfect water temperature and the ideal roast and grind. The coffee is brewed with precision, timed down to the second.
“It also lets me do a 30 second bloom, to let the CO2 escape from the coffee,” said Poull.
Poull took his pour-over skills to regional competition in Austin recently, and he was the only Texas brewer to place. Next month, he’ll compete at the U.S. Coffee championships in Seattle.
“I’m really excited to just go up there and learn a whole lot and meet some of my contemporaries and bring home a win,” said Poull.
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