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Tempe coffee shop employees competing in US Barista Championship

The 2010 United States Barista Championship is right around the corner, and one ASU student is going for the title of USBC champion.

On April 15-18, the 22nd annual Specialty Coffee Association of America Exposition will be held in Anaheim, Calif. at the Anaheim Convention Center, according to the USBC Web site.

Melissa Marriott, a pre-medical and theater major from ASU, will be one of two people representing Cartel Coffee Lab in Tempe at the championship, along with coworker Ashley Mascareno, said Brian Clemens, the store’s manager.

The championship consists of three rounds, where competitors prepare and serve a total of 12 drinks — a single espresso, a single cappuccino and a signature espresso-based beverage of their choice.

Each set of drinks will be presented to four “sensory judges,” while also being graded by two technical judges and one head judge, according to the USBC Web site.

Each competitor will be given a total of 45 minutes — 15 minutes to prepare, 15 minutes competition time, and 15 minutes to clean up — according to the USBC Web site.

The competition winner will go on to represent the United States in the World Barista Championship in London in June.

Since the Southwest Regional Barista Competition was cancelled, the USBC said that six competitors from the region were allowed to go straight into the national championship, Clemens said.

However, there were only three baristas in the region that wanted to attend, so no competition was needed to decide who would go and who would not.

Clemens said that the girls “have a lot to live up to,” as this competition features great baristas from all over the country.

“They’re barista rock stars,” Clemens said.

Clemens said that Marriott and Mascareno have spent upwards of 100 to 150 hours each on practice time, and have paid for a lot of their own equipment such as table wear and pitchers.

However, both girls were offered financial help by Cartel and were allowed to use the store’s equipment and coffee beans for all their practice runs and for competition, he said.

Marriott recently purchased her table wear for the competition, and with the expense of that and her equipment, she has spent around $400 on the competition, Clemens said.

A few weeks ago Cartel had a “Barista Jam” to raise money for Marriott and Mascareno at the downtown Phoenix Cartel location. The shop raised around $175, he said.

Since each barista that participates pays around $500 to $700 on equipment, registration fees, travel and hotel, Cartel is holding a week-long campaign that started on April 9, accepting donations at both Cartel locations to help offset some of the costs.

Marriott and Mascareno are supporting Cartel in the competition, which adds value to the company, along with adding to the baristas’ own reputations as well, Clemens said.

“Everything we do at Cartel is high quality,” Clemens said.

Clemens, who will be in-attendance at this year’s USBC, said that he’s excited for Marriott and Mascareno to compete.

“They’re putting their heart into it,” Clemens said.

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