The Winning Brew
by Tammy Scileppi
Mar 14, 2012 | 20955 views | 1 1 comments | 948 948 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Katie Carguilo. Photos courtesy of Counter Culture.
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What makes a great barista? Just ask recently-crowned coffee artisan, Katie Carguilo from Crown Heights, who won first place at the North East Regional Barista Competition, held in midtown Manhattan last month – an event that brought coffee pros and java fans together for an exciting tasting experience.

A top trainer for aspiring baristas for the national Counter Culture Coffee chain, Carguilo’s next stop will be Portland, Oregon, where she’ll hopefully ace the United States Barista Championship (happenign April 19-22), then go for the “gold,” at the World Barista Competition, set to start end of June or beginning of July in Vienna, Austria. The ultimate winner will travel to Costa Rica in January.

“Training to be a good barista is like training to be a chef - you can’t really put a time limit on it,” said Carguilo, 28, who battled 11 other baristas from the region during the fierce competition.

“It takes a long time to get a good feel for it and to develop a refined palette for being able to identify real quality - tasting 500 coffees a day. It’s sort of like chef school – you’re really never done training.”

In addition to her stellar espressos and cappuccinos, the “coffee queen’s” winning signature brew – an Ethiopian blend - is comprised of nectarine and lemon juices, combined with jasmine green tea, sparkling water and vinegar, topped with an espresso preparation of Haru (from a cooperative in Yiragacheffe, Ethiopia), and served in a grappa glass (Italian shot glass). “I wanted to use Ethiopian coffee because that’s where coffee is indigenous to,” she said. “Africa is the only place where coffee has grown wild.” Everywhere else, it spreads either naturally, with airborne seeds, or is transported and replanted.

So, what are those special barista qualities? According to Carguilo: “Of course, you’ve got to love coffee; working in a shop, future baristas have to love serving people and appreciate customers coming through your door – care about giving them a good product and experience; be passionate about always learning more.”

“I fell in love with coffee,” said Carguilo, who turned her passion into a career, sharing her expertise with others for the past four and a half years, at Counter Culture Coffee’s Chelsea training center. The company, based in Durham, North Carolina, sources and sells their environmentally and socially responsible product to about 100 coffee shops, restaurants and specialty markets in and around New York City.

“Katie Carguilo is a seasoned coffee professional, who brings cutting-edge skill, innovation, and true craft to her role as a coffee educator and customer support representative in New York,” said Mark Overbay, Marketing & Communications Mgr. at Counter Culture. “Her successes as a competitive barista and trainer speak for themselves, but it’s her passion for coffee - and for continuing to push our understanding and experience of it - that punctuates the value she bring to our industry. We couldn't be prouder to have her on our team.”

Originally from New Hampshire, Carguilo attended George Washington University in D.C., eventually leaving her general manager job at a small coffee shop in Georgetown, when she decided she preferred drinking Counter Culture Coffee and working with them.

Relocating to New York in 2007, she lived in Bushwick for two years before moving to Crown Heights. “It’s fun to get good at something, and coffee was rewarding,” she said.

When she isn’t talking coffee or tasting different brews, the Brooklyn fashionista enjoys going out to eat with friends, all over Brooklyn, and says, “I’ll ride my bike to any neighborhood, if there’s something fun to do there.”

The March featured coffee at Counter Culture is from Rwanda. For more information, visit
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April 04, 2012
A refreshing cup of coffee..