Interview: Pete Licata Barista Champion of the World

Pete Licata barista champion pose
Post written by Jesse Harriott
Hard work pays off

In 2004, Pete Licata attended a workshop by 2004 World Barista Champion, Tim Wendelboe.  This inspired Pete to start competing the following year.  Since 2005, Pete Licata has placed first in his regional barista competition five times, won the United States Barista Competition twice and is the reigning 2013 World Barista Competition Champion. Pete graciously took some time from his busy schedule to answer a few questions for the Coffee Compass. We hope you thoroughly enjoy this Q & A session with The Champ. He is a deserving champion because of hard work, dedication, repetition, innovation in engaging judges with hospitality, rock solid technical skills, and properly representing an amazing coffee from Arnulfo Leguizamo. Be inspired.

The World Barista Championship is the Everest of the specialty coffee industry. Now that you’ve climbed that mountain, what’s next for you?

I’m really looking forward to sleeping more and acting like a “normal human being”. In reality, I will likely be coaching newer competitors and judging if I can.

How many different coffees did you cup before finding this year’s competition coffee?

I cupped 5 to 7 other coffees before this one. Honestly I was kind of holding out for my samples from Arnulfo because his story and attention was just so compelling. Obviously I was ecstatic when it cupped as well as it did!

pete licata barista champion coffee
Arnulfo Leguizamo’s Coffee: Colombia La Primavera
On your barista competition routine prep checklist (take note barista competitors), I saw the word “Burnination” written in. Burnination is…?

What Trogdor does to the countryside, the peasants, and all the people in the THATCHED ROOF COTTAGES!!!! (from the Trogdor Song)

Pete Licata barista champion prep sheet
Pete Licata Competition Prep List
Besides Arnulfo Leguizamo’s coffee, Colombia La Primavera, what are some other Parisi Coffee offerings that you are really enjoying right now?

We have a fantastic Sulawesi sourced by Cafe Imports right now. I also love the new Costa Rica we are just releasing from Tim O’Brien, Cafe Tim

You have competed for so many years in the barista championship, what has been a significant change over the years in the judging score sheets that you find most impacting to the competition?

Biggest impact has to be the increased weight on sensory scores. When I first began there were a lot of extra points that were given for technical skills and silly things like your clothes.

Pete Licata’s 2013 WBC Winning Routine


The first coffee experience that blew your mind?

Ethiopia Beloya. The first insanely well produced ripe natural I really ever encountered. I would be interested to taste that now and see if it was really as good as I perceived it.

What advice would you give a barista considering competing in the United States Barista Championship for the first time?

Watch videos, read the rules and score sheets, and perfect your tech skills. There are tons more resources out there now than when I began so use them! Tech should be second nature and as flawless as possible so you can focus on flavor, speech, and engaging the judges. Oh, and there is no shortcut for good old hard work and repetition.

At home, what is your favorite coffee brewing method?


As coffee equipment technology advances, do you foresee any changes in the ways that coffee shops and coffee service will be different in the future?

Is this like space coffee? I think that innovative and forward thinking service doesn’t always need new technology. It needs innovation. Coffee equipment technology will need to be revolutionary to change what we currently consider the norm on its own.

Where do you go for coffee in Kansas City when you’re not drinking at Parisi?

Oddly Correct, Quay Coffee, and Latte Land (Kaldi’s) are usually on my list

Your “regular” coffee order or “go to” item on a coffee/espresso menu?

Depends on what time it is. In the morning I will probably ask for “coffee”. If I’m at Parisi a lot of the time I will get a 6oz salted caramel latte. Don’t hate on my salted caramel!

pete licata barista champion martial arts
Favorite food to prepare/cook/grill?

If I’m grilling, I make a mean burger or steak. Otherwise I like to cook food that tastes great. Caramelized onions and bacon make everything better.

Where do you go for barbeque in Kansas City?

Oklahoma Joe’s. The one in the gas station. Seriously. Also Mr Robin Seitz makes an insane coffee rubbed smoked brisket at his home.

Other than your specialty coffee skills, what other hidden talents or hobbies occupy your time?

I studied martial arts since I was 10, Japanese for 5 years in college, enjoy home brewing, snow skiing, and disc golf among many others. To relax, I prefer Books and Brews in relative solitude.

You recently served your signature beverage on bar at Parisi, tell us how about the reactions of the customers to tasting it? Also, any interesting, weird or funny reaction/responses?

The customers have had an overwhelmingly positive reaction to the drink! I sold tons of them and had some really great interactions. I did have one girl say it was too sweet, and one say they didn’t like citrus. Those were really the only two weird responses I got from it. This is the first time I have really been able to easily execute a great sig drink in a cafe and it makes me quite proud to have such a fantastic reaction to my creation.

If you would like to contact Pete Licata or learn more about the barista craft, please visit his website

About Jesse Harriott

Jesse Harriott and his beautiful familyCurrently working as a shop operations manager, roaster, and barista for Sunergos Coffee in Louisville, Kentucky, Jesse Harriott has been a coffee professional for just about 9 years now. Jesse has been roasting for about 4 of those years.  More importantly, Jesse is married to a lovely woman and has 3 wonderful children, of which two occasionally help him in the roastery (you know…as helpful as an 8 and 5 year old can be).

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