Just make sure she makes the coffee.

By: Penny Hummel

Michele Granitz is the kind of person you'd like to grab a cup of coffee and sit down with for a visit.

Just make sure she makes the coffee.

Granitz, owner of Max Crema's Espresso and Coffee bar in Fleetwood, was recently named the best barista in Pennsylvania.

In late February, she competed in the first-ever Specialty Coffee Association of America Mid Atlantic Regional Barista Competition in Washington D.C.

During the competition, Granitz prepared 12 specialty coffee drinks for four judges in less than 15 minutes. While she was preparing the drinks, she talked to the judges and was interviewed by the master of ceremonies.

The barista placed third in the competition, but beat out the other Pennsylvanians and earned the right to compete in April's United States Barista Competition, in Charlotte, N.C.

Granitz grew up in the Harrisburg area, then moved to California when she was an adult.

She was 21 when she had her first sip of coffee.

"I never drank coffee," she said.

But after her husband, Chris, returned home from a trip to Italy, all that changed.

"He started drinking this espresso stuff," she said.

Eventually, Chris convinced her to try a cup.

"It was the most awful thing I'd ever tasted," she recalled, but eventually, she found some espresso she liked, and for some time it was her drink of choice.

It was while she was in California, she began working for a coffee shop because it looked like fun.

"I enjoyed it so much, I decided to go full-time and proposed being a manager to the shop's owner," Granitz recalled.

She managed several stores and began thinking about opening her own coffee shop someday, when she retired.

Granitz and her husband, Chris, moved to the Oley area in 1994, because they wanted their children to grow up closer to family.

A few years ago, a small strip mall was being built along Pricetown Road in Fleetwood, and the couple was hoping someone would put a coffee shop in that location.

But then, Granitz realized maybe she wouldn't have to wait until retirement, and called her husband.

"Hey, why don't I open a coffee shop?" she asked Chris.

Chris got the phone number from the leasing sign at the new strip mall for his wife.

"The next day I called, and six months later I was open for business," Granitz recalled.

Chris continues his support by working evenings and weekends at Max Crema's. The couple's 13-year-old daughter, Julia, can be found working there too.

"The customers just love her." Granitz said. "It's a lot of fun."

Granitz is encouraging Julia to enter the competition next year.

"We keep telling her she's going to be the youngest barista in the competition," the proud mom said.

Her 20-year-old son, Steve, gets drafted to work when he's home on breaks from York College of Pennsylvania.

When she's not at Max Crema's, Granitz enjoys skiing, traveling, or eating out at a fine restaurant, but all her activities revolve around spending time with her family

If you should ask Granitz what her favorite coffee is, she'll start listing different types from different regions and why she enjoys them.

"You pair it with food, like you would wine," she explained.

"It's all good, or I won't sell it," she said, admitting she tends to enjoy to more robust blends.

Should Granitz place high enough in the national barista competition, she'll be able to compete in the world competition in Switzerland in May.

Contact Penny at plhummel@berksmontnews.com.

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