|Brewing the Best
Heather Perry '04 is America's Top Espresso Barista
International business alumna Heather Perry has taken coffee-making to a new steamy high.
The world-recognized espresso barista won the Specialty Coffee Association of America's 2007 United States Barista Championship in May. This accomplishment qualified her to advance to the next level —boldly representing the United States against national champions from 49 other countries at the World Barista Competition in Tokyo , Japan this past summer.
Not only did Perry's efforts help her make the cut for the top six finalists, but she ended up placing second in the overall competition and earned the honorary award for “Best Espresso 2007.”
During the annual event, 25-year-old Perry and her international competitors were judged on their technical coffee-making ability, presentation style and taste of the espresso, cappuccinos and original “signature” specialty beverages they created.
Perry perfected “Espresso in the Clouds” while working at Coffee Klatch Roasting in Rancho Cucamonga . “It features a faux crema infused with a hint of orange, lemon, ginger, cinnamon and vanilla that is scooped on top of her world-famous espresso, slightly whipped with egg yolk and brown sugar.
Being able to present her full-flavored creation globally “was a really incredible experience, sort of like the Olympics of Coffee,” she says.
“When you're competing in the regional and even national competitions, everyone's from the same country, so you're all essentially doing the same type of thing,” she explains. “In the world competition, however, it's very different. There are things that I would never do in America that other people are doing because that's acceptable and expected in their countries.”
Aside from her latest honors, Perry is also the 2003 United States Barista Champion and is presently Ultimate Barista USA for the Ultimate Barista Challenge international league.
Her love for coffee began nearly a decade ago when she first started learning the coffee business from her father, owner of the Coffee Klatch. Not surprisingly, she began drinking coffee at age eight and by age 14, she had already begun training as a barista. Her love for coffee and the industry itself has driven her ever since.
“Coffee is an industry I fell in love with and every process that came along with it,” she says. “Coffee is being revolutionized; now it's about the science and theories behind it. As much as there is a science behind it, there is an art behind it.”
Founded in 1993, Coffee Klatch Roasting operates coffee shops in Southern California, a specialty coffee roasting business in San Dimas and a warehouse in Upland , where Heather perfects her own barista skills and now trains others in the art and science of coffee-making.
“Most people who open a coffee house figure they'll learn coffee-making as they go,” explains Perry. “But that's not a very good business plan because if they're making a bad product initially, that can really hurt their business.
“That's why a lot of small businesses don't last — they don't invest the time or money to learn how to do it right, to be good and consistent,” she adds.
In addition to Perry's numerous awards, Coffee Klatch Roasting has been recognized as serving the “Best Espresso in America ” by the Los Angeles Times.
“Someday, I hope to take over and run the family business, but in the meantime, I'll continue competing,” she says.
Her favorite part of the coffee business is seeing the whole process come to fruition.
“It's a unique experience to be able to go to the origin — where the coffee beans are grown — and deal with the farmers, then get the beans roasted, and finally train the barista and have a finished product for the consumer at the end of the day. Knowing all the work that went into that cup of coffee — I just love it.”
Fortunately, Perry's 2004 international business degree from Cal Poly Pomona has complemented her career perfectly.
“Coffee is international and as a specialty roasting company, we do a lot of international travel — often visiting coffee bean origins like Columbia , Nicaragua , Panama ,” she says. “Many times we buy beans directly from farmers, and we also deal with exporting, importing, licenses and a lot of international government bodies. Needless to say, my degree has helped immensely.”
Perry has the coffee business down to the last caffeinated drop.
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