Local baristas win regional titles

Mirror staff

For the second year in a row, a Federal Way coffee shop is the straw that stirs the drink in barista competitions.

During the Western Regional Barista Championship in Portland, Ore. Sept. 13, Esther Nelson of Espresso Express was the runnerup and co-worker Mark Pfaff placed third.

By defeating baristas from leading cafes in California, Oregon, Alaska, Washington and Idaho, the local duo qualified for the U.S. Barista Championship in Atlanta, Ga. next spring.

They have “high hopes of winning the national title,” said Dawn Dennis, owner of Espresso Express, a small cafe in the Virginia Mason-Federal Way medical clinic. “We expect to break all the stereotypes and prove you don’t have to be a downtown cafe to love and serve great espresso.”

Pfaff, who finished fifth in last year’s regional competition, and Nelson have worked at Espresso Express for about four years. Their barista skill stems mainly from practice, according to Dennis.

“We attend every professional convention and seminar we can find. We study books and videos. We visit other cafes to get ideas and tips,” Dennis said.

But, she added, “there is no substitute for constant practice. Mark and Esther spend hours going through their routines.”

Espresso Express opened in 1991.

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