Coffea barista to compete in New Orleans with signature drink

Jan. 31, 2018

This piece is presented by Dawley Farm Village.

Merecedes Nelson expresses her artistry through photography and coffee drinks. The barista at Coffea Roasterie will showcase her espresso skills and her original drink in a qualifying event for the U.S. Coffee Championships on Feb. 4 in New Orleans. The coffee shop, which has locations at Dawley Farm Village, downtown and on South Louise Avenue, will have a watch party from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Sunday at the Louise site. Nelson’s fans can sample her original drink at the event.

Name: Merecedes Nelson

Age: 25

Hometown: Sioux Falls

Occupation: Barista

Tell us about the competition. 

I’ll be going to New Orleans Feb. 2, and I’ll be competing on the second day of the two-day competition, on Sunday, Feb. 4. Coffea is always trying to encourage us to learn as much as we can and to become the best we can be at our craft, and one way of doing that is by competing in events like this. They asked if anyone wanted to participate, and I said I was interested. Before I knew it, we had managed to get one of the open slots when registration started near the end of October. This usually sells out within minutes, so you gotta be quick!

The competition itself involves me serving espresso shots and a signature beverage of my own design to a panel of judges, all the while giving a sort of performance basically explaining why they should care about me and my coffee. There will also be two judges following me around and making sure I’m doing everything technically correct as well as keeping things clean. That’s the gist of it all, anyways.

Describe the drink you’ll be making.

The signature beverage I’ll be serving as part of my routine is a sort of espresso mocktail. I’ll be chilling shots of espresso — using our Chelelektu Ethiopian coffee — and mixing an orange blossom honey with those. That mixture will be poured into a glass that I will have rimmed with an orange peel for aromatics, and then will get topped off with a spritz of hibiscus soda water. It’s a lovely light and open drink that’s also incredibly complex as you drink it.

You’re also a photographer and being a barista seems like another type of creative career. Do you view it as an artistry?

I definitely view it as an artistry, and I think most baristas would agree. Especially working in a specialty coffee shop like Coffea that encourages creativity and growth, and puts emphasis on quality rather than quantity. Creating and serving beautiful coffee is indeed an art form.

How did you get your start as a barista?

I actually started at the U.brew in Vermillion while I was there studying photography, and I only got the job because I didn’t have enough money to get my large merry mint mocha whatever every day. I found out you got free coffee drinks every shift, and I immediately applied. I’ve come a long way, ha ha.

What’s the secret to being a great barista?

I don’t think there’s any secret. Like any art form or craft, you just have to have dedication and passion for what you’re doing, and you have to practice, practice, practice.

What’s the favorite thing about your job?

I love so, so many things about my job, but being able to create all sorts of magical drinks and make beautiful connections with all sorts of people is definitely at the top of my list.

We’re assuming you’re a morning person. Have you always been one?

Pretty much. I really do love mornings, especially in the summer, though it’s always still a little hard to drag myself out of bed at 5 a.m.

What do you like about working in downtown Sioux Falls?

I love the vibrant, creative downtown community and just the feel of it all. Plus, I feel like working downtown I get to meet so many interesting people. I never knew we got so many tourists in the summer months until I worked downtown last summer and I met people from all over!

What brought you to Sioux Falls?

Well, I was born here, so I didn’t have much of a choice. I probably wouldn’t choose anywhere else to have grown up, though.

What keeps you in Sioux Falls?

Honestly, it’s just really easy and comfortable to live here. Everything is fairly cheap, the people are nice, plus it’s fairly close to other big cities if you need to get away for a bit. I can’t say that I’ll stay here forever, but I definitely always see myself coming back to Sioux Falls no matter where I might go. It’s just good.

If you could drink only one coffee or tea beverage for the rest of your life, what would it be?

What a terrible world that would be! But if I really had to pick, just a plain latte. Over ice. That’s always my go-to and never disappoints!


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Coffea barista to compete in New Orleans with signature drink

This barista at Coffea Roasterie will showcase her espresso skills and her original drink in a qualifying event for the U.S. Coffee Championships.

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