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How Coffee and Beer Geeks Are More Alike Than You'd Think

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We're still a ways from touting baristas and roasters as beer nerds celebrate Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head and Garrett Oliver of Brooklyn Brewery. Yet we're on

the way, with baristas joining the festival circuit to make a name for themselves in the coffee world.

Here in South Florida, our standout is Camila Ramos

of Panther Coffee in Miami. In February, she placed in the Southeast

Barista Competition and Brewers Cup to represent the state in the U.S. Barista Championships this past weekend.

As the case had been with craft beer more than a decade ago, the culture of coffee lingers in semi-obscurity. "Beer used to be just beer in the U.S.," with variations limited to the Bud/Miller/Coors variety, said Holy Mackerel brewer Bobby Gordash when I spoke with him yesterday. It took some time, but finally, "People have finally become more educated," he said.

Now is the time when coffee nerds are galvanizing, creating a community that celebrates people who have harnessed flavors and techniques to transform an ordinary cup of coffee to a transcendent brew.

For both drinks, where ingredients are sourced is key. When it comes to

beer, where a yeast comes from produces infinite variations, whether

it's from Nottingham or a variety from Trappist Monks.

Hops also matter, whether they're grown in the U.S., Britain, or New Zealand,

for starters.

For coffee, whether beans are a blend, single origin, or single lot from Peru,

Sumatra, or Ethiopia -- flavors will vary. And then there's the roast: whether it's light or dark, who's doing it, and

for how long. All this before we've even started to brew.

Coffee culture needs its superstars to educate the masses the way beer

nerds venerate brewmasters and chefs glorify farmers. And that's where we're


Are the Garrett Olivers of coffee culture the adventurers who traverse the world to buy beans? Or are they baristas and brewers like this guy from Maryland? Last weekend, Andy Sprenger from Ceremony Coffee Roasters in Annapolis won the event for the second year in a row, and that will take him

to the World Brewers Cup in Vienna in June.

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