It’s finally here, the biggest week on the coffee competition calendar. Today marks the beginning of the 2022 World Barista Championship and World Brewers Cup. Both taking place between now and Friday as part of the Melbourne International Coffee Expo, nearly 100 of the world’s best coffee competitors will be taking the stage Down Under, and there’s a whole lot of intrigue in both events.
As it is every year, all eyes will be on the World Barista Championship, the crown jewel of the competitive season (it is the only one that historically has been live-streamed after all). This year will be a bit of a clash of old names and new faces, including the triumphant return to competition of perennial WBC Finalist Ben Put of Monogram Coffee in Canada. For a stretch of about four years, Put could pretty much be penciled in to the Final round of competition, but how will his three-year absence—as well as his splitting focus representing Canada in the World Brewers Cup as well—affect his outcome? Never mind that he would have to make his way through a rogue’s gallery of very accomplished baristas, including Mexico’s Carlos de la Torre, Sweden’s Patrik Rolf, and the UK’s Claire Wallace.
For most Americans, though, the story is of course Morgan Eckroth (she/they), MorganDrinksCoffee, internet sensation and the barista of the social media age. Now officially a member of the Onyx Coffee Lab team—meaning the brand now has represented the USA in back-to-back years in both the Barista and Brewers Cup, more on that momentarily—Eckroth brought the world of coffee competition to their 7 million followers, most of whom had never even heard of a Barista Championship before. She has continued to bring their fans behind the scenes in the run up to this event via TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube. If Eckroth continues to run good in competition and ends up winning it all, the coffee internet may actually explode.
Not to play second fiddle to anyone, the World Brewer’s Cup looks to be a barnburner. You’d be forgiven for reading the list of competitors and thinking that it was the slate for the World Barista Championship. Competing this year are the likes of the aforementioned Ben Put, Aga Rojewska of Poland and Lex Wenneker of the Netherlands (who were the Winner and Runner-Up at the 2018 WBC, respectively), Nicole Battefeld-Montgomery of Germany, and Giacomo Vannelli of Italy.
Also competing this year is Wilfred Lamastus Jr. of Panama, a fourth-generation coffee producer from the esteemed Lamastus Family Estates, who recently broke records (again) by producing a coffee sold at auction for over $6,000/lb. The junior Lamastus is also a three-time Panamanian Brewers Cup Champion. He’s got experience and his coffee is likely to be one of the rarest and most expensive in a competition all about rare, experimental, and expensive. Lamastus is strong pick to make a deep run.
But the odds-on favorite this year has to be Elika Liftee of Onyx Coffee Lab. Representing the United States, Liftee is back once again, looking to top his third place finish last year. Liftee has the highest finish in a WBrC event out of the field, and with Onyx’s stellar competition history and penchant for super high-end comp coffees (I’d be willing to bet Liftee will show up with an experimentally processed Gesha from either Cerra Azul or La Palma y El Tucan, both in Colombia. Seriously, bet me. I’ll take your money), on paper Liftee checks all the boxes for a winning run.
All of this is, of course, on paper. How either of these events shake out is always up in the air. But that’s what makes them so intriguing year after year. And it’s all getting started today in Melbourne. Well, technically it started yesterday late at night due to the time difference, but you get the idea.
A full competition schedule for the World Barista Championship and World Brewers Cup can be found here and here, respectively. We’ll be keeping an eye on the events and bringing you updates and who made it to the next round as news comes down, so stay tuned!