Pete Licata put Hawaii coffee on the map in a big way when he won the 2010 Western Region Barista Champion title in February. The competition requires contenders to show their technical chops and create a signature drink for four judges.
At a table set to replicate a five-star dining experience, contestants serve espresso, cappuccino and the signature drink. They’re judged on presentation, taste and technical skills.
Baristas must consider every facet of their ingredients. Licata created the coffee he used alongside coffee farmers. He also paid close attention to the source of the milk used in his cappuccino for its taste, texture and creaminess.
The highlight of Licata’s repertoire, however, was his signature version of Espresso Affogato, an ice cream espresso. He paired the drink with a single bit of candied bacon, caramelized in maple syrup and topped with chocolate.
"I was thinking outside the box," he says. "I love bacon and was thinking of ways to relate the flavors and textures of espresso to other elements. The creamy, fatty texture in espresso matches the fats in bacon. The chocolate I chose had lots of cocoa butter so it was silky smooth but not very sweet."
In the end, Licata says, "I asked myself, Does it make you smile?"
He tested his pairing on barista friends, continually refining. When Licata heard oohs and aahs, he knew he had it.
There was perhaps no one more fitting than Licata to enter the competition, since his job as head barista trainer and coffee quality manager for Honolulu Coffee Co. requires him to aspire to excellence.
Licata oversees 63 baristas for the company’s seven locations on Oahu, Maui and Guam. In addition, he oversees the baristas at the St. Regis Princeville on Kauai.