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Monday, April 18, 2005 - Page updated at 03:43 p.m

Dane takes the crown in World Barista Championship

Seattle Times staff reporter

A melted pepper espresso drink helped Danish barista Troels Overdal Poulsen win the World Barista Championship in Seattle today.

Poulsen works at Cafe Europa in Copenhagen, a famous coffee shop that has produced two other world champion baristas. He wowed judges with espresso made from Brazilian beans grown at a single estate and roasted in a Northern Italian style. He served his beverages on wooden trays similar to a sushi platter, and used fresh Danish milk in his cappuccinos.

As he prepared the drinks, Poulsen explained the source of the ingredients and suggested how the judges should taste them for maximum effect.

"Introduce a lot of air with that one,'' he instructed the judges as they tasted the pepper concoction.

Hometown favorite Phuong Tran was eliminated from the competition yesterday, but the Northwest was still be represented in the finals today.

Tran, 35, owner of Lava Java in Ridgefield, Clark County, and a trainer for Seattle-based Zoka Coffee Roaster and Tea, kept her composure after finalists were announced yesterday, and she was surrounded by fellow baristas offering hugs and condolences.

"It's a serious competition," she said, standing among baristas representing 36 nations at the event.

"They're all my friends, so I'm happy for them."

One of her pals is Vancouver, B.C., barista and coffee-shop owner Salvatore "Sammy" Piccolo, one of six national champions who advanced to the finals.

Piccolo, 26, owns five Caffe Artigiano shops with his brother. The special drink he poured for judges was zabaglione, with vanilla chantilly whipped cream and caramelized pear.

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Piccolo tipped his hat to Tran. "She's one of the greatest baristas in North America," he said.

Piccolo placed third, behind second place finisher Hiroyuki Kadowaki of Japan. Other finalists, in order of their final showing, were Carl Sara of New Zealand, Jonina Tryggvadottir of Iceland and Gunnhild Seljenes of Norway.

In the competition, at the Seattle Public Library's former temporary facility at Eighth Avenue and Pike Street, baristas each had 15 minutes to prepare and serve judges four espressos, four cappuccinos and four nonalcoholic signature beverages of their creation.

Poulsen called his signature beverage called "ESB", for "enhanced sensory balance." It included espresso served with a touch of lavendar syrup and a pepper flavoring that was served in a soup spoon and melted with a torch just before tasting.

Tran said she probably won't compete next year and instead will focus on her career of training other baristas.

But she'll still serve her signature drink, the Crimson Sage latte flavored with sage and white pepper, at Lava Java.

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

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