Welcome to Sprudge.com’s coverage of the 2014 United States Barista Championship, held in Seattle, Washington over the weekend of April 25th-27th. This is our third season exhaustively covering every routine, competitor, and memorable moment throughout the United States Barista Championship cycle, and we assure you it’s been a pleasure.
Sprudge.com’s coverage of the 2014 United States Barista Competition is made possible by direct support from Cafe Imports and The Wilbur Curtis Company. 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. We’re proud to produce our coverage at USBC in partnership with the Speciality Coffee Association of America.
Over the next few days our competition coverage crew will be documenting the USBC live from Seattle. You can follow along with our coverage via the @SprudgeLive Twitter handle, so that no matter where you are in the world, you can keep pace with the action by following @SprudgeLive. Following USBC on Twitter has never been easier, or more fun, so we do hope you’ll join us.
Here’s a complete schedule for the USBC Round One, which begins on Friday, April 25th at 9:15am. We’ve included the Twitter handles for each of the competitors to help support wider online coverage of this event.
The SCAA has its own competition hub at USCoffeeChampionships.org. There you’ll be able to find competitor info, livestream video footage from the event, and much more from the wonderful culture of coffee competitions. Each day we’ll publish complete recaps of the USBC field, anchored by the photography of Sprudge contributor Charlie Burt. Below you can enjoy our previously produced recaps from the 2014 USBC qualifying events.
Big Western (Northwest and Southwest Regions) — Day One — Day Two — Day Three — In-depth feature on Southwest Champion Charles Babinski — In-depth feature on Northwest Champion Laila Ghambari
Big Eastern (Northeast and Southeast Regions) — Day One — Day Two — Day Three — In-depth feature on Northeast Champ J. Park Brannen and Southeast Champ Camilla Ramos.
Big Central (North Central and South Central Regions) — Day One — Day Two — Day Three — In-depth feature on North Central Champ Josh Wismans and South Central Champ Tyler Rovenstine.
What’s a barista competition?
Thanks for asking! Barista competitions are like a universal nexus for specialty coffee culture here in the United States, and in many other places around the world. The events themselves follow a deceptively simple format: competitors are given a 15 minute allotment to make four espressos, four cappuccinos, and four “signature drinks”, a distinctive beverage with bottomless capacity for imagination, and restricted only by the exclusion of alcohol. Competitors are judged by both sensory and technical judges, in accordance with a byzantine set of rules formally codified over the last decade-plus of barista competitions around the world. Competitors are given point scores across dozens of metrics, with top scorers advancing through performance rounds until a winner is declared.
A few years ago we produced a feature called “The Ultimate Parent’s Guide To Barista Competitions“, and it’s a useful tool for explaining the event for folks just learning about this culture. Allow us to recommend that feature if this is your first time following a barista competition.
But why do you care so much?
That is also a really good question. Over the last several years Sprudge has helped amplify barista competitions around the world, and in the process these events have become very meaningful to us. There are lots of reasons for this–not least of which being they’re quite thrilling to watch, once you’ve seen a few–but the honest truth for why we care is far more practical. These competitions are a direct information line into the people and companies doing cool stuff in the world of coffee. The progressive roasters, the best baristas, the top lots of green coffee, the best equipment and key innovators–they’re all here. Barista competitions are like an incubator for the wider world of progressive specialty coffee. It only makes sense for us to follow these events as they happen around the planet.
That world-traveling green coffee buyer who moves millions of pounds of coffee a year? She started as a barista competitor. The communications director for a prominent roasting company, fending off pesky inquiries from The New York Times? Winning a barista competition helped him get that job. These events function very much like a minor league system for bigger and better jobs within the world of speciality coffee, with several top past competitors moving on to open their own companies, get hired for top positions at established roasters, and generally advance their careers in the industry. You compete to improve your skills, but also your life, your career, and the path of one’s own destiny.
It’s riveting stuff on stage, and even better if you follow the wider culture at large, which we do. Thanks for following along with us, and do join us on Twitter at @SprudgeLive.