Sprudge.com is a proud founding sponsor of the Bay Area Coffee Community and its inaugural flotilla of events. Our own Zachary Carlsen was on hand to cover the first-ever BACC throwdown, offered in conjunction with Barista Nation San Francisco.
As the Barista Nation came to a close, a crowd started buzzing around the UNIC espresso machines stationed in the far corner. I took the stage and started playing a patented blend of “junior high school dance hip hop” as 40 baristas signed up on a butcher paper bracket, representing twenty cafes from the Bay Area and some repping SoCal and Seattle.
Judges Pele Aveau (Blue Bottle), Ant Walach (Sightglass), and Katie Carguilo (Counter Culture Coffee) took their seats, as four eager baristas gathered around them at the same time, pouring exotic exemplars of the latte arts. It was two hours of controlled chaos – beer was flowing, a megaphone blared each time the judges announced the next round — as some poured tableside, others poured secretly in a corner, but all submitted their forms for judgment in front of God and country. Ultimately there could be only one, and as BACC organizer Richard Sandlin controlled the crowd while the climax reached its deafening crescendo, the top 3 were declared.
It was a wild one for the ages, and we’re still just barely recovered from the furor. To get a bit of clarity, we reached out to BACC’s PR gal extraordinaire Molly Gore, who had a lot of positive, aphoristic things to say about BACC, BACC’S role in the order of man, and all the exciting stuff they got planned beyond latte art boogaloo.
Sprudge: What a wild night! How did you feel about the very first BACC event?
Molly Gore: We’ve received an outpouring of feedback from the community since BNSF, which is wonderful. There is a lot of energy around coffee in the Bay Area at the moment, and centralizing all of that in Saturday’s event was electrifying. We’re seeing a lot of people coming into the community from different places, from different steps of the supply chain, and it’s such a heartening and enlightening experience to learn about coffee from angles we don’t encounter as often in our daily lives. Specialty coffee is still a very young industry, comparatively, and we’re at a juncture right now wherein there’s an especially high level of experimenting, teaching, contesting, and sharing going on, which makes this a particularly exciting time to become a part of the conversation. The throwdown was a great way to cap off the weekend, and a raging success. We feel a lot of momentum coming off of a launch like that, bolstered in large by the gratitude and excitement for the future that came flooding in afterward. We’ve got a lot of kids who have been waiting for something like this, a way to come together, and the ball is finally rolling. It’s only going to get bigger.
Sprudge: What’s next for BACC?
Experiment with new ways to engage the community inside and outside the coffee industry. From the inside, we have been lucky to listen when more experienced communities like the Barista Guild of America, Panda Hernandez from the Pacific North West TNT, Patrick Burns from the West Texas Barista Throwdown League, or Anastasia Chovan from Barista Nation offer us their guidance. From the outside, we have been lucky to meet entrepreneurs and community-focused organizations like Hub Oakland, 18 Reasons, Green Festival, and a few others who share best practices from beyond the coffee industry.
We’re planning a smattering of collaborations with innovative wunderkinder in the Bay Area, from gastronomes to tech folks to every breed of artisan. We’re talking to everyone, and forging some crazy, unexpected relationships with folks and industries that are leagues away from coffee. But once you start collaborating, you find that we all have something we can give to each other. And we’re also finding that the reasons people are excited about coffee to cover a goliath spectrum—be it personal, political, environmental, artistic, or simply the love of a good cup. We aim to engineer all kinds of experiences that honor and speak to why people love coffee, and bring some parts of the culture that many haven’t seen into public focus. It’s going to be fun, unexpected, educational, challenging, delicious, and seriously whimsical at times. Whatever it is about coffee that you love, or just want to know more about, we’re going to have something for you. We’ll also be hosting a six-month latté art competition series at a rota of cafés around the Bay, one per month while rolling out lots of new events as they come together. Stay tuned for cupping parties, cocktail/spirit collaborations, educational lectures/workshops, and brewing pop-ups.
Sprudge: Responding to criticism on Twitter how do you think BACC will evolve?
BACC is certainly still growing and getting its feet planted. We were actually quite excited that Stephen Vick brought the sustainability issue into view. It’s something we’ve been wrestling with as an organization, and we were heartened to see voices from the community calling out for attention to ethics. Sustainability is inherently part of the coffee conversation, and specialty coffee’s relationship with it is a hotly debated issue at the moment. Partly because the two ends of the supply chain, as Colby Barr of Verve Coffee recently mentioned at the CUESA sustainability lecture; farmers and coffee drinkers, are as disconnected from each others’ lives as you could possibly imagine and highly polarized between the first and third world, drinking coffee brings up a lot of questions about our responsibilities as stewards and consumers as well as our potential to empower others through our relationship to coffee. Because it’s so easy not to talk about it, since coffee’s origins are highly out of sight, we have a duty to bring these questions into focus. As an organization, we’re here to facilitate that exchange of information and make it accessible to all. To have the debate. We want to be a forum, a platform, a roundtable that celebrates coffee and brings to light all of the problematic choices attached to it, as well as sharing all of the new discoveries and waves of information that are surfacing. We’re here to bring everyone together, inside and outside the industry, to foster community by celebrating what is so special about coffee…from every angle. We are lucky to have formed partnerships with the Barista Guild of America and hope to bring their educational content to the larger Bay Area and spark a crossroads between good coffee and good community.
I think the BACC will evolve as its membership grows, and as we continue to learn what makes the coffee community tick. We are a conglomeration of values and passions, of traditions and possibilities. We want to help the specialty coffee industry move forward. It is about more than latte art. Competition is but one instrument in our orchestra. We are ready to partner with anyone ready to celebrate coffee and evolve together.
Congrats to all the winners! The next round of BACC competition goes down February 7th at Awaken Cafe in Oakland. For more info, visit Bay Area Coffee Community online and follow them on Twitter @HelloBACC.