Buongiorno! And welcome to Sprudge.com’s coverage of the 2014 World Barista Championship, live from Rimini, Italy. This is our fifth (!) season of covering the WBC, and this year is shaping up to be one for the ages, with a wide open field of top barista talent around the world and plenty of room for lesser known competitors to make a run at the title.

Sprudge.com’s impending coverage of the 2014 World Barista Championship is made possible by direct support from Nuova Simonelli, whose Aurelia T3 espresso machine anchors the action at WBC. We’ve been proudly partnered with Nuova Simonelli for the last 3 seasons of World Barista Championship action, a relationship that has also included coverage of barista competition events in our home country, the United States. This year’s event is in many ways a homecoming for Nuova Simonelli, whose headquarters are just down the Adriatic coast from Rimini, near the beautiful city of Ancona. Our appreciation and debt to Nuova Simonelli for their sponsorship of our coverage is a very real thing. If you enjoy the content we produce in the coming week in Italy, or have enjoyed previous barista competition coverage on Sprudge, please consider thanking Nuova Simonelli on our behalf. In a very real way they make this work possible.

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What’s A Barista Competition?

Thanks for asking! Barista competitions are like a universal nexus for specialty coffee culture. 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.

Rimini Cross Stich
Original cross-stitch art by Ben Blake and Amber Blake.

I’m Not In Italy, Y’all. How Do I Watch From Home? 

A complete schedule for the 2014 World Barista Championship is available here, and we’ve compiled Twitter handles and links to each person’s home cafe or roaster for your easy reference. A Livestream of this weekend’s action is available here, produced by our friends and partners at World Coffee Events, the international governing body that produces these extraordinary competitions. Not sure what time to watch from home? We like Time And Date for global timezone conversions. WCE have also put together fun questionnaires with all 54 international competitors at this year’s World Barista Championship, so check that out here. Sprudge.com’s original coverage of this event is produced in partnership with World Coffee Events.

Another great way to follow along from home (or heck, while you’re watching in the stands) is by checking out our @SprudgeLive Twitter feed. We’ll be sitting in the audience at the WBC in Rimini for every last gosh darn competitor, tweeting out pertinent routine details and info live as it happens. It’s similar to how sports announcers (and increasingly, sports bloggers) cover major sporting events around the world, and we’ve taken that style of dedication and applied it to barista competitions. It’s a fun, and candid, way to follow along with these competitions in real time, and the action gets *particularly* exciting when it comes time for semi-finalist and finalist announcements. Follow us at @SprudgeLive on Twitter. It’s a lot of fun.

So Come On, Who Do You Think Will Win?

That is a super tough question! The American barista competition circuit is the one we’ve covered the most closely over the last half-decade, so we’re definitely excited to see longtime top competitor Laila Ghambari take her place on the world stage. You can read more about her USBC victory here. We’re also quite enthused to spend more time watching Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood compete; his win at the United Kingdom Barista Championship was nothing short of dazzling. From there, we’re looking at 2013 world finalist William Hernandez, who returns for the second consecutive year to represent El Salvador and Viva Espresso, home to 2011 World Barista Champion Alejandro Mendez. Ben Put from Canada is one to watch; he’s representing one of North America’s best roasters, Phil & Sebastian, and no Canadian has ever won the WBC, an imbalance they’d surely like to redress. Kapo Chiu of The Cupping Room in Hong Kong is another returning national champion, and definitely a rising international star. We think it’s likely you’ll see multiple competitors from Asia advancing through to the Sweet 12 semi-finals this year, and perhaps to Finals Sunday. You can also mark down start times for competitors like Craig Simon of Australia, Coen Van Sprang of The Netherlands, Marian Plajdicko of Slovakia, and Javier Garcia of Spain, plus many more.

But there’s going to be a high rate of turnover between this year’s finalists and the 2013 top 6. That’s because only William Hernandez of El Salvador is eligible in this year’s field; it was a remarkably fierce year of competition at the national level around the world, and more than a few of last year’s familiar faces and rising stars did not make the cut at home this year. This is anyone’s competition, and all the better for us, the fans, because of it.

So let the games begin! And thank you for following Sprudge.com’s coverage of the 2014 World Barista Championship.

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