Brew Battle LBC: U.S. Coffee Championships

Beans make the scene, and star baristas, too, in Long Beach. Bonus? You can watch.

The way we order a coffee these days has been dissected, lampooned, satirized, and pondered, from the half-cafs to the no-foams to the one shot of peppermints pleases to our most Byzantine, offbeat espresso-themed requests.

But how we wait for our coffee as it is made has not yet come under full consideration, which it should, as there are those who love to linger by the pickup counter, admiring the barista at work. Those are the latte lovers who will be out at the Long Beach Arena, from Thursday, Feb. 19 through Sunday, Feb. 22, eyeing the U.S. Coffee Championships.

Which are not just the U.S. Coffee Championships but also the U.S. Brewers Cup, the U.S. Baristas Championship, the U.S. Latte Art Championship, the Roasters Guild Choice Competition, and the U.S. Cup Tasters Championship. 

Big. Very big. This is not, in short, a decaffeinated gathering, in any sense.

Each showdown spotlights different skills and gifts among coffee professionals. Triangulation is the name of the game in the U.S. Cup Tasters Championship, which presents tasters with a trio of cups where "two cups are identical and one is different." Time is of the essence to break down "taste, smell" and other qualities found in the cups. 

Hard stuff, especially if you've sipped the same brew every morning for the last 12 years. Could you do it?

Let us also wow over the latte art, given that even straight-up pouring a foam-type product in a cup can test most of us. How those talented baristas form swans and hearts and cats and more baroque imagery is a wonder, one best seen up-close or at a not-far distance.

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Which is why we like to linger by the pickup counter to see the barista at work. Yes, how we take our coffee is about as individual as we are, but a timeless act? Watching an artist at work. And if that artist is handling the very libation you put so much faith in — and can't start your day without — admiring what they do seems like it is a nice end of a daily bargain coffee fans should uphold.

Spectator tickets? They're brewing right here, Americano aficionados.

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