The Daily Tar Heel

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Saturday December 10th

Open Eye Cafe owner to judge barista competition in Dubai

Will travel to United Arab Emirates next month

Scott Conary sips a cup of coffee at Open Eye Cafe in Carrboro. He is traveling to Dubai this October to serve as the head judge for the National United Arab Emirates Barista Championship.
Buy Photos Scott Conary sips a cup of coffee at Open Eye Cafe in Carrboro. He is traveling to Dubai this October to serve as the head judge for the National United Arab Emirates Barista Championship.

A national competition in the Middle East is seeking the expertise of an Orange County coffee brewer.

Scott Conary owns both Open Eye Café and Caffé Driade, located in Carrboro and Chapel Hill respectively.

His brewing and roasting experience on the national and international levels landed him a job as a head judge for the National United Arab Emirates Barista Championship in Dubai Oct. 12 to 14.

Conary said his interest in the coffee process stems from his love for the grassroots focus and ideals of the industry.

“Those ideals are all good,” he said. “You don’t see that a lot in other industries.”

Judging the performance of a barista takes great skill and experience because of the nature of coffee, said Cindy Chang, executive director of the world competition.

Chang said she lives in the Triangle, in part because of the dedicated and reputable coffee companies in the area.

“Coffee is a product because it’s like wine. It’s got these origins, these stories,” Chang said. “It’s complicated. It’s not just coffee.”

Conary said he doesn’t spend much time near his cafes. Researching coffee origins and participating in barista competitions has brought him around the country and the world.

The convention will pay for Conary’s travel expenses, but he is not being paid for his time.

“We are people who believe in what we’re doing,” Conary said. “We’re willing to volunteer for the greater good.”

The competition consists of regional competitions, followed by nationals and the World Barista Championship.

The winner of the United Arab Emirates competition in Dubai will move on to the World Barista Championship in June 2011. This year, the championship will be held in Bogotá, Colombia and will host baristas from 60 countries.

In London last June, Michael Phillips was announced the 2010 World Barista Champion — the competition’s first American winner.

At every level of competition, each barista is given 15 minutes to make 12 drinks: four espressos, four cappuccinos and four signature drinks.

Participants are evaluated by two kinds of judges that assess method, presentation and final taste. To ensure quality and consistency, head judges like Conary train and provide guidance to the other judges.

In Miles Murray’s time as a barista at Open Eye, coffee has become more than just an early morning caffeine fix. Studying under Conary, he said he has competed and judged barista competitions on a regional level.

“Scott is really involved in the whole process of coffee,” Murray said.

“That’s not something that a whole lot of people can say.”

Contact the City Editor at citydesk@unc.edu.

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