Last month, the Frankfurt Coffee Festival hosted two German coffee championships: the German Barista Championship and German Latte Art Championships. Winners at these events, Ella Simon and Daniel Gerlach, respectively, are now moving on represent their country at the 2023 World Championships in Athens and Taipei.

During the Barista Championship, a competitor named Mikolaj Pociecha representing Suedhang in Tübingen, competed using oat milk for his cappuccino course, which is currently against the rules at all levels of SCA-sanctioned competitions. Now, Pociecha along with Suedhang have released an open letter demanding SCA Germany to break from global SCA practices and allow alternative milks in national competitions.

Published yesterday via Instagram, the letter calls for SCA Germany to put their “ethical responsibility” over “concern about a national winner not being able to participate in the World Championships.” The letter can be read in full below:

Hello people of the SCA Germany GmbH,

Since the subject of our concern is of general interest, we are addressing you with two questions in an open letter.

You, the SCA Germany, organize, among other things, the German Latte Art and Barista Championships. SCA Germany adopts the rules for these competitions from SCA Global and WCE. The rules require the obligation to use cow’s milk in the Latte Art and Barista competitions. In recent years, national and international criticism of these rules has repeatedly been expressed.

(A) The Rules are contrary to our ethical compass: they discriminate against people with vegan diets, give a false image of the barista profession, humiliatingly force participants to work with animal products on a public stage and imply a huge waste of resources.

We do understand that your decision to implement the SCA Global rules is to ensure that national winners can participate in the World Championships.

Why do you put your concern about a national winner not being able to participate in the World Championships above your ethical responsibility?

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(B)In addition to the moral dubiousness, there is also a legal problem with the SCA rules. We and other actors in the global coffee scene want the rules to be changed and are not afraid to take legal action. Specialist lawyers are already active in Germany and other countries.

In addition, we know that participants in upcoming SCA events will not be willing to respect the current set of rules and that appropriate protest actions are being [sic] planned.

We thus propose the following solution to SCA Germany:

(1) SCA Germany publicly promises that it will refrain from the compulsory use of cow’s milk at all upcoming competitions.

(2) Until the next event, SCA Germany will define an adapted set of rules in coordination with SCA Global. If SCA Global does not make a contribution or blocks a rule change, SCA Germany will define an adapted set of rules on its own.

(3) SCA Germany is committed to ensuring that the winners of the upcoming competitions are admitted to World Championships. However, this is secondary to point (1).

We conclude with our second and last question:

Do you, the SCA Germany, agree to this outlined solution?

This is not about SCA Germany. It is not about SCA Global. It is certainly not about us. It is about contributing to the future of our planet.

We request your public response within two weeks until 21 November 2022.

In a separate post on his personal Instagram account, Pociecha adds:

Last weekend I performed and talked about Canephora being the future of specialty coffee, cultural appropriation and my wish of being included in these competitions on equal terms with my cow milk drinking colleagues.

I live coffee everyday. I am a coffee professional by choice and you can believe me when I say I’m not putting all this work in for the money. For me coffee is a medium through which I aim to bring positive change. I am NOT willing to compromise my morals or ethos for anybody and I will do all I can to shape the environment around me to be as inclusive and fair as I can.

Rules are social constructs. They can be broken as easily as they are followed. That is true for me as it is true for the association that is supposed give us (all of us) fair representation. Washing your hands clean of responsibility is not an option for anybody. We are all responsible and I for one am done with excuses.

I encourage all vegan baristas and coffee professionals to participate in competitions on their own terms. Have your voices heard, don’t compete to win. Don’t compromise your ethics. Do it until it becomes normal.

Pociecha’s use of oat milk is not the first such instance of alternative-milk-as-protest in competition. Back in 2019, Chris Tellez competed in the Canadian Barista Championship using oat milk in hopes of starting a similar discussion on the necessity—or otherwise—of using cow’s milk in competition.

Pociecha and Suedhang have given SCA Germany until November 21st to respond, with threat of legal action and protest if rule changes aren’t made. As of press time, SCA Germany has yet to respond publicly to the statement from Pociecha and Sudehung.

This story is developing…

Zac Cadwalader is the managing editor at Sprudge Media Network and a staff writer based in Dallas. Read more Zac Cadwalader on Sprudge.