Her co-workers now call her “Queen Bean.” Rachelle Stepro of San Luis Obispo is Peet’s Coffee & Tea Barista Competition Champion for 2011 after beating out 1,800 other Peet’s baristas.
Earlier this month, she competed in Alameda against four finalists, who were charged with making an espresso, cappuccino and a custom specialty drink. Stepro’s winning specialty drink: a sparkling espresso with cream and honey.
To set herself apart, she practiced for months and custom blended her own espresso with Peet’s Arabian Mocha Java, Ethiopian and Sumatran beans, paying special attention to critical factors such as grind settings, water pressure and time.
Stepro, a 29-year-old mother of two, works part time some early mornings and the Thursday night Farmers Market shift at the Court Street shop in San Luis Obispo, and she’ll make you her specialty.
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“The best baristas are tasters,” said Stepro, who has six years of experience as a barista and learned all her expertise on the job.
“When I first started competing, I felt, ‘I am the final link in the quality chain,’ ” Stepro said — doing justice to great coffee by making it expertly.
As part of her winnings, Peet’s is donating $1,000 to Stepro’s nonprofit of choice: the Central Coast Autism Spectrum Center in San Luis Obispo.
Peet’s, which originated in Berkeley, is primarily a West Coast coffee chain with additional locations in Chicago and Boston.