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Brewing for competition: Trinity Street barista to represent country, coffee shop at global competition

By Austin Jackson | Published Wednesday, March 20, 2019
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Mix master

MIX MASTER – Trinity Street Coffee Bar operations manager Kasey Headley mixes his drink titled the The Balancing Act, which he will present March 28-31 at the Coffee Masters in London. Messenger photo by Austin Jackson

Customers fog in for a lunch break jolt, ordering their lot of macchiatos and lattes as a barista with steady hands and focused eyes methodically pieces together something entirely different.

Amidst the bustle, Trinity Street Coffee Bar operations coordinator Kasey Headley conducts a mix of seemingly incongruent ingredients – malt vinegar, Columbian coffee beans, rye whiskey, cinnamon bark syrups – into a delicate symphony of flavor.

After topping off the glass with a splash of fizzing ginger beer, the final ingredient in his symphony titled The Balancing Act, Headley sticks his nose into the glass for a long draw of his concoction before taking a sip.

“Yep,” Headley said. “Perfect.”

The taste brings back the feeling and flavor from a long afternoon of dining on pastries in London for Headley.

Soon the drink will literally take him across the pond as he represents his Decatur coffee shop and country at the Coffee Masters premier barista competition March 28-31 in London.

Headley was the only American selected to compete against the 15 other drink makers from across the world at the event during the London Coffee Festival.

“No pressure,” Headley said sarcastically. “Just have the whole country on my shoulders.”

It’s Headley’s third time to compete and second trip to London in as many years.

The competitors were selected based on their resumes and video submissions showing off their signature drinks. His take on London will be one of the disciplines. The competition will also include latte art, cupping, drink making and a mystery round were baristas are forced to come up with a drink with unknown ingredients.

Headley’s inspiration for his drink began last year, while dining on pastries at Dominique Ansel Bakery in London during the 2018 competition.

“I tried to block out everything I saw in London, close my eyes, and think about what I remembered,” Headley said. “It was eating this pastry. So I thought, let’s make that into a drink.”

It took three attempts to create the perfect balance of fluid that captured his experience in London in a cup. A credit to his palate and vision for the drink.

“I really knew what I was going to use from the beginning,” Headley said. “It was just a matter of finding the right ratios. That’s why I call it the balancing act.”

Despite being a cagey veteran of the competition, Headley said there will still be nerves as he brushes shoulders with the world’s elite baristas. Regardless of the results, Headley is excited to see what new inspiration can come from his peers.

“I have this drive to compete and win, but it’s not like if I don’t win it’s the end of the world,” Headley said. “It’s really about the relationships you make and people you meet. It brings me back to some of my best friends. All the competitors are masters when it comes to drink building. The people that get selected have a mind that works differently. Getting to be around them and see how they came up with it. I’m always looking to learn.”

Headley’s thirst for coffee knowledge has pushed his career from the beginning.

He grew up drinking vanilla Folgers. When he got a job at a coffee shop in Canyon, while studying at West Texas A&M, his career took off.

“I had an aha moment where I really tasted the individual flavors and notes,” Headley said. “It was a slow progression of wanting to know more and more. Then finding out that there’s so much more that I don’t know, it created this passion inside of me to delve completely in.”

Ever since, Headley has been pushing the boundaries of what can be accomplished in a cup, taking him across the state and world. His next stop is London, but the destination is still brewing.

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