The 2014 Big Western Barista Competition attacks Los Angeles, California this coming weekend, bringing with it barista competitors from Vashon Island to Kailua, Sherman Oaks to Tumwater. For some Sprudge readers, the barista competition circuit is highly interesting; for others, it's a sideshow, proof that speciality coffee exists in its own special world that can be hard to understand and follow. We agree with both of these sentiments, and that's why this season, for the third consecutive year in a row, we've traveled to all of the United States Barista Championship regional events, exhaustively covering the proceedings and doing our darndest to bring these coffee competitions to a wider audience.
Like great coffee itself, Sprudge.com's coverage of the Big Western does not just magically happen. It's made possible by the partnership and direct support of several key players, like our partners at Wilbur Curtis Co. and Portola Coffee Lab, who have sponsored our coverage of this event with their direct support. For the second consecutive year, the entirety of our worldwide barista competition coverage – US regionals and nationals, plus the World Barista Championship this summer in Italy – has been underwritten by direct support from Nuova Simonelli. And we're also proud to be partnered with the Speciality Coffee Association of America, whose professional and enviably poised staff are responsible for putting on these extraordinary events. If you enjoy our coverage this weekend, please join us in thanking these companies.
Over the next few days our site will shift into an ESPN-like mode of competition coverage, with daily routine recaps, photos of every competitor, and an on-the-ground coverage team at the events in Los Angeles. We call the barista competitions live on Twitter, in a manner derived from the great baseball radio broadcasters of yore, using our @SprudgeLive Twitter handle. No matter where you are in the world, you can keep up with the events in Los Angeles by following @SprudgeLive. We also publish competition schedules with Twitter handles for each competitor and their cafe.
If you're playing along at home, be sure to surf over to the SCAA's new competition hub site, at USCoffeeChampionships.org. There you'll be able to find more competitor info, plus Livestream videos of every barista competitor (the Livestream link is here —we'll be Tweeting it out again all weekend, don't worry).
Here's your quick reference schedules for all three days of the Big Western:
2014 Big Western Barista Competition Schedule – All Three Days, 47 competitors, complete with Twitter handles.
This year's US Barista Competition format is a bit different than years past. We broke the news of those changes back in July 2013, and have now had a chance to see them in action. Big Western is the final of three regional competition events here in the United States; Big Central came first, back in November of last year, followed by Big Eastern in January.
The new format has done away with the two-round format of old; gone are the days of Finals Sunday, when the top six baristas from Day 1 and Day 2 would compete for final placement. Now the format involves one large field of at-large competitors from two distinct regions. Each barista competes just once. A top six are selected from each region on Sunday, and are then eligible to compete again at the 2014 United States Barista Championship in Seattle. The top two finishers from each region are afforded an automatic bye into the second round of competition.
The barista competition kicks off at 10:30am on Friday, February 21st, and then again at 11:30am on Saturday the 22nd and Sunday the 23rd. Brewers Cup compulsory and open service rounds happen throughout the weekend, and are not Livestreamed—we'll call all finalists live on Twitter as they're announced, and give you in-depth brew recaps on the winning routines for each Brewers Cup region.
But in addition to the competitions, these weekend events also form a kind of grand social function for speciality coffee professionals and enthusiasts. A gathering of the tribes if you will, with all the attendant cultural, personal, and yes, even romantic interactions that phrasing implies. The parties are always fun, and we think it'll be especially lively this year, as baristas from the Southwest and Northwest Regions have never before been forced to mix together quite like this.
Here's a rundown of what's on this weekend in Los Angeles:
Thursday: Handsome Coffee Roasters 2nd Anniversary Party. This event kicks off at 7pm Thursday night, and entry is available via RSVP. More details here.
Friday: 6:00PM – 9:00PM Big Western Happy Hour sponsored by Verve Coffee Roasters. Event is happening at Angel City Brewery (216 South Alameda St., Los Angeles, CA). Join us for beers from Angel City Brewery and assorted pizzas, pastas, salads, and deserts from Pitfire Pizza.
Saturday: Big Western Afterparty. Held at Art Share LA (801 E. 4th Place), with entertainment by DJ Sprudge and the Mr. Mister Miyagi Band (5 piece karaoke band!). Expect multiple food carts, beers on tap from Noble Ale Works, and cocktails prepared by Gabrielle Dion.