Photos: East Village Barista Crowned Cappucchampion!

Sam Lewontin burst into tears when he learned he’d won the Northeast Regional Barista Competition this afternoon.

“I don’t know if I can describe it,” said Mr. Lewontin, who works for Everyman Espresso in the East Village (he was one of the local baristas we profiled earlier this week). “It’s a little surreal. I’ve watched a lot of people be in that spot.” Though he has been a barista for more than 12 years, this competition was only his fifth.

Mr. Lewontin’s competitive strengths come from his background in performance and theater, and his touch for signature beverages. At the beginning of his 15-minute performance, he handed out cards with a flavor note on each side and asked the judges to pick the flavor they expected from the Burundi coffee he was using. Then, on the fly, he created a signature beverage that highlighted the opposite flavors, using an apple-like acidity and ginger-rimmed shot glasses.

The win means Mr. Lewontin will get to bypass the first found of the U.S. Barista Competition in April, and will get to visit a coffee farm in Kenya.

IMG_2013Kelsey Kudak Mr. Lewontin with Every Man owner Sam Penix.

Five other finalists from the regional competition will also attend nationals: Brian Gelletly of Ultimo Coffee, Jordan Barber of Intelligentsia, Anne Cooper of Dallis Bros. Coffee, Mike Morgenstern of Joe, and Tamara Vigil of Irving Farm Coffee Roasters. Amanda Whitt of Everyman Espresso also placed fifth in the Brewer’s Cup Competition, which occurred simultaneously, and will go on to compete nationally as well.

Before he goes back to the world of waiting on customers, Mr. Lewontin will travel to Long Beach, Calif. to brew coffee with the Barista Guild of America at the latest TED Conference. Afterward, he’ll take one more week away from practicing for the competition to enjoy working in his shop, but then it’s down to business. He plans to examine the judges’ comments closely and prepare for nationals in Boston.

“It’s the culmination of a lot of hard work for me and maybe more importantly for a lot of people who have helped me throughout the whole thing,” said Mr. Lewontin. “It’s the culmination of years of work.”