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Coffee Experts Duke It Out In Durham

Lem Butler (left) of Counter Culture Coffee and Robbie Roberts (right) of Joe Van Gogh pose for a photo with WUNC Morning Edition Host Eric Hodge.

Coffee baristas and roasters across the East Coast are in Durham for a three-day regional competition that begins today. 

Competitors will make cappuccinos and come up with signature drinks. 

Lem Butler works for Counter Culture Coffee, the company hosting the competition.  He's also a former barista champ.  He said this weekend's events are really about taking care of the customer.

“For any consumer who goes to a coffee shop, they're looking for two things, “ Butler explained. “They're looking for great coffee and great service.  And this competition is designed to showcase that extreme of coffee service.”

The winners of the US Coffee Championships Big East Barista and Roasters Competition will move on to test their skills in a national competition later this spring.

Robbie Roberts is the owner and roaster at Joe Van Gogh.  He says a good morning brew requires attention and consistency.

“Try to do some things the same way all the time, water temperature-wise and the amount of coffee,” Roberts said.  “I still see people who tell me about making coffee at home and they kind of make it up every day and if they would just codify that, then they could react to the flavors they get and arrive at a recipe that makes them happy.  And it certainly is a personal experience, everybody's will vary a little bit.”

The regional barista competition takes place at the Cotton Room in Durham.

Rebecca Martinez produces podcasts at WUNC. She’s been at the station since 2013, when she produced Morning Edition and reported for newscasts and radio features. Rebecca also serves on WUNC’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accountability (IDEA) Committee.
Eric Hodge hosts WUNC’s broadcast of Morning Edition, and files reports for the North Carolina news segments of the broadcast. He started at the station in 2004 doing fill-in work on weekends and All Things Considered.
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