If you’re a regular at Peet’s coffee shop in New Encinitas, you likely recognize the smiling face of barista Becca Moak—and chances are, you’ve come to know and love the frothy java goodness she whips up behind the counter every day. If you’ve never been here, you might be missing out on one of the best cappuccinos in the region.
Moak is one of three finalists in the Fifth Annual Peet's Barista Competition. After months of competing against hundreds of other Peet’s baristas, she has advanced to final showdown, will happen Tuesday at the company’s roasting facility in Alameda, Calif.
If she wins, Peet’s will make a $1,000 in her honor to Surfrider, the nonprofit she’s picked to be her beneficiary. And of course, she’ll also get bragging rights for a year.
Moak recently took some time to chat with Patch about why she loves the brewed stuff so much, and how she’s feeling about heading into the big competition.
Patch: How long have you been a barista?
Moak: I’ve done this for about 5 years, and last two years have been here in Encinitas at Peet’s.
Patch: What you enjoy most about your work?
Moak: Working here my appreciation for good coffee has really grown because I’ve learned so much. I now understand how many elements affect the taste of coffee—for example, whether or not it was grown in shade, what elevation is was grown at, and what the climate was like. The growing conditions influence flavor. Coffee is a lot like wine in that way.
Patch: You’re obviously very good at what you do. What’s your secret to consistent quality?
Moak: Your espresso shots must be pulled beautifully. If the espresso is off, the entire drink is off.
Patch: What sorts of things will you be judged on during the competition?
Moak: Every year Peet’s baristas have to go through a certification program, so this is an extension of that. I’ll have 15 minutes to make an espresso, cappuccino, and one signature drink of my choice. There will be four sensory judges who examine the look and taste—and two technical judges who score my skill. I’ll also be judged on my knowledge of coffee and my overall presentation and professionalism.
Patch: So what’s your strategy heading in to the competition?
Moak: I can get pretty nervous during competitions, so my goal is to just have fun with it. I’ll also talk to the judges as if they’re my regular Peet’s customers. I figure if I’m relaxed that’ll translate into better drink-making.
Patch: If you win, Surfrider will get $1,000 in your honor. Why did you pick that nonprofit?
Moak: Growing up in North County, their mission of conserving the ocean and protecting our beaches really resonated with me. They do so many good things in this area, and I know a lot of locals also support their cause.
Patch: How does it feel to have advanced to this level?
Moak: I competed last year, but I didn’t make it as far—so this is really rewarding. And there’s some definite buzz about it in the shop, so I’m enjoying a mild celebrity status. But I think the coolest part has been getting to travel with the other finalists to see what Peet’s does behind the scenes. We got to meet some of the roasters and learn about the level of work that goes into the coffee before we ever get it. It was really neat to see how dedicated they are to their craft. It’s been inspiring to see that quality in all the parts of Peet’s, and this competition inspires that same level of quality among the baristas. I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of Peet’s.
If you’d like to see Moak in action during the competition, you can watch a live stream of the event online at 11 a.m. on Tuesday—or you can follow on Instragram or Twitter (#2012pbc).