Chicago Barista May Be World's Best

Intelligentsia employee is already national champion

Some people are very particular about their coffee. But no one is pickier than the judges at the World Barista Championships.

And it'll be up to Chicagoan Michael Phillips to satisfy them this year.

Representing over 50 countries, the best baristas in the world are going to Atlanta this weekend to compete in the 10th annual World Barista Championships. They'll be preparing the best coffee drinks they can in front of a live and online audience.

Even though Phillips is the current U.S. champion, he doesn't hold any high expectations.

"I didn't come here to win," the 30-year-old barista told the Sun-Times. "I came here to make some good coffee and have some fun."

Each competitor prepares 12 coffee beverages—four espresso, four cappuccino, and four signature drinks—in a 15-minute performance set to music.

"It's just you up there with a machine and a panel of judges," said Phillips. "You have 15 minutes to show them why the coffee you're serving is spectacular... and the skills you have demonstrate that you are preparing it better than anyone else."

Judges evaluate each performance on taste, cleanliness, creativity, technical skill, and overall presentation.

There is no cash prize for the winner, just a lot of bragging rights.

Admission to the competition is free, and the public is invited to taste beverages at complimentary espresso bar stations.

However, you may have already tasted Phillips' work. If you've ever ordered a cup of joe from Intelligentsia's Broadway location, he might have been responsible for your caffeine fix and the creative art in your froth.

"I really care about what I do," Phillips said.

A live video broadcast from the event and link to the official WBC blog sponsored by Barista Magazine can be found on the World Barista Championship website at

Matt Bartosik, editor of Off the Rocks' next issue and "between blogs" blogger, cannot function in the morning without two cups of coffee.

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