NERBC Barista Preview: Justin Schulz

With the North East Regional Barista Championship coming up quickly, we’re offering a sneak peek into the activities at our training lab in Ozone Park. As the city’s finest baristas gear up to compete for the title of best in the region, it’s time to practice, practice, and practice—with the occasional break to answer questions for our blog.

Today we chat with Justin Schulz of Roberta’s.

Where do you work and how long have you been in coffee?

I am the head barista at Roberta’s in Brooklyn. I’ve only been a barista for two years but I’ve been making up for lost time attending conferences and reading all I can about coffee and the craft.

What made you decide to compete in the NERBC?

Competing in the NERBC is a great way to further my knowledge and skills in crafting espresso drinks. The competition brings the coffee community together to raise the bar for coffee professionals. I work in a unique restaurant with a lot of creative culinary people. I hope
to bring a different perspective than most competitors and take advantages of the resources at my disposal at Roberta’s.

What coffee did you choose to work with and why?
I’ve blended two lots from Octavio coffee’s farm in Brazil, Fazenda Nossa Senhora Aperecida. I was very excited that Dallis Bros had received fresh crop microlots from their farm. I’ve liked Brazilian
coffees as espresso in the past, and I knew I would be able to create a remarkable coffee experience in competition.

What can you tell us about your signature drink?
I am still constructing my signature drink, but I can say that it will grow organically out of what I love about this coffee.

What’s your training regimen been like so far?
I’ve been biking down to the Dallis roastery in Ozone Park, Queens once or twice a week for a few months to work with their roasters and trainers. At first we ran time trials and focused on the basics of competition. Now we have constructed our blends and are developing our routines. Having selected my coffees, I am going to show up early to Roberta’s every day to taste my coffee and practice my performance before the restaurant opens.

Have you been to a competition before? What do you think is rad about it or what excites you about its role in the industry, or your role within the competition and within the greater community?

I did get to check out the competition last year. It seemed very strange to me then, but I’ve gotten even more nerdy about coffee since. I’ve only been a barista for two years, and in that short
time, I’ve found more and more resources and information about the craft made available. The competition has a long history of bringing together the community to share our love of coffee. It’s a very exciting time to be competing.