Peet’s Keeps It Fresh


What goes into a good cup of java? Plenty of hard work and talent, judging from the latest Peet’s event.

Suzette “Sooz” Hammonds of El Cerrito, who works at the original Peet’s Coffee & Tea location on Vine Street in Berkeley, is the winner of the Second Annual Peet’s National Barista Competition, which was held on Monday, October 12, in Alameda.  Congratulating her is fellow East Bay finalist Sean Coutts, who works at the Domingo Street Store in Berkeley.

Sooz was one of only four finalists in the competition, which included 400 baristas nationwide. Peet’s has 195 stores and a total of 4,000 baristas serving its tasty beverages across the U.S.

Rich Avella, the head judge, says it was a fierce competition. The baristas had to meet 31 criteria in terms of their technical skills and 19 criteria in terms of their sensory (i.e. service) skills.

About 180 people attended the event in Alameda. And now the finalists can compete in external national and global contests if they want to.

“The quality of Peet’s coffee is really important,” said Avella, “and the barista is a key link in the quality chain.”

Peet’s, which started in Berkeley in 1966,  broke ground for its 138,000 square-foot artisan roasting facility in Alameda on Bay Farm Island in 2006. And the roasting facility went into full production on May 30, 2008.  (Also in 2008, the Alameda roasting facility was awarded LEED Gold certification by the U.S. Green Building Council, making it the first LEED certified coffee roasting facility in the U.S.) The Peet’s facility now supports the work of about 800 employees.

Many thanks to James Oller for the photo!

Janet Levaux