This story begins with one very tiny KIA Sportage, five coffee professionals, a cooler full of cold brewed Pacamara Natural, and a trunk packed with specialty coffee from our Colombian Direct Trade partners. Last weekend members of the PT’s crew hit the road heading east with one goal in mind – to share our love for exceptional coffee with the people at CoffeeFest Chicago. The energy of CoffeeFest is vibrant and cheerful and our team was thrilled to compete on Navy Pier for the title of “America’s Best Coffeehouse.”
The America’s Best Coffeehouse competition was developed to determine and acknowledge the top three coffeehouses in North America. Our team represented PT’s at the Crossroads and participated in the Central Region bracket. The competition itself involves completing a 15 minute opening shift, a 30 minute coffee service, and a 15 minute closing shift. Judges keep a close eye on the teams and score them on everything from cleanliness, knowledge of the menu items, team work, and the sensory experience of the products served. Shout out to all six teams who came out and put their hearts into it:
- Muggswigz Coffee & Tea – Canton, OH
- Vint Coffee – Louisville, KY
- The Caffeinery – Muncie, IN
- PT’s at the Crossroads – Kansas City, MO
- Cabin Coffee Co. – Forest City, IA
- Quills Coffee – Louisville, KY
Our team wanted to be sure our menu represented our mission statement: “exceptional coffee, lifelong friendships, and the wisdom to appreciate both.” As a company we take quality very seriously. We are committed to working with coffee farmers who are true artisans of coffee cultivation and practice their craft with dedication, skill, and passion. Our menu offerings were specially crafted to pay homage to our partners at La Palma Y El Tucan, Café Granja La Esperanza, and Finca Villa Loyola. Two of the coffees we featured at the competition arrived at our roasting facility about a week before the competition. It felt very much like Christmas in June.
The Last Teams Standing:
After two grueling days of competition, the list of six teams turned into three finalists. The final rounds were far from easy – each team hustled and gave it their all. There are so many great things to say about all of these teams. In an effort to keep it brief we’ll just cover rankings and the signature drink offered.
- 3rd place went to Vint Coffee (far left in photo). Their speciality drink was the Butchertown Fizz – a refreshing combination of ginger beer, espresso, and lemon.
- 2nd place came home with the team from PT’s at the Crossroads (center in photo). For our signature drink we put a Kansas City spin on a breve cortado. Our single origin espresso from Finca Villa Loyola danced with natural coffee flower honey from Café Granja La Esperanza to create a balanced, complex, and creamy treat.
- 1st Place, and the title of America’s Best Coffeehouse, went to the crew from Quills Coffee (far right in photo). Their signature drink was a super tasty Shakerato – a shaken espresso with an orange blossom simple syrup, garnished with cherry and clementine. Served chilled.
What We Learned:
No man is an island and success is all about teamwork. Being a great café is multi-dimensional – it involves excellence in everything you do. On the list of things you need to excel as a café you’ll find great coffee, great personalities, great music, and great machines. Ultimately it’s teamwork that makes your café experience unforgettable for customers. Teamwork means knowing when and how to help in a way that ensures your customers have a stellar experience every time.
Special Thanks To:
The story wouldn’t be complete without acknowledging all the hard work that went into preparing for this competition. First and foremost, a shout out to the farmers and producers. Seriously, these guys grow some of the finest coffee in the world and we’re honored to work with and learn from them. Second, our team at the roasting facility – the roasters who worked diligently to ensure these coffees were handled with finesse and the front office team who tasted and critiqued them.
Lastly, it’s safe to say the long drive to Chicago would not have been possible without some major coffee love in the city of Saint Louis. Here’s to Sump Coffee, Blueprint Coffee, and The Mudhouse for their generous hospitality and their dedication to exploring and highlighting specialty coffee.
Thank you Chicago for showing the PT’s crew a lovely time. Stay tuned to our blog for more coffee travel updates and origin reports. Until next time, go forth and drink great coffee.