To call Cole McBride merely a barista degrades the scope of his talent—he prepares coffee in much the same way legendary Seattle bartender Murray Stenson creates cocktails, with a craft-forward, scratch-made approach. He moved to Seattle from Nashville in 2002 and started working in the coffee industry, like so many do, as a kid fresh out of school and in a new city. His first job was at Tully’s—and he didn’t even like coffee at first. The “aha moment,” as he describes it, came after a shot of espresso at Espresso Vivace. “It was the first time I had espresso that was sweet on its own. And that’s when I decided I wanted to be the best barista I could be.”
McBride has spent more than 16 years doing just that, rising through the ranks of local coffee shops. Last year, after seven years of competing in the United States Barista Championship (USBC), a national competition amongst the most skilled baristas, he took home the top prize. This month, he’ll defend his title at the USBC event in Kansas City. If he wins, he’ll again represent the U.S. at the world championships in Boston next month.