A Note on U.S. Coffee Championships; Why I Care, Why I Watch

in the ring


coffeetographer, Hungry Ghost Coffee, Brooklyn

The first time I heard of a barista competition it was in Los Angeles in 2011, while I was home for the winter and it was being held in Hollywood at a studio lot. The first time I attended a competition, it was in New York, the following year, on the 11th floor of a building in midtown Manhattan. I’ll never forget it; I’ve been hooked on them ever since. For that 2012 season, which Katie Carguilo went on to win, where her thoughts were a stellar hallmark to her perfomance with coffee complimented by music. Charles Babinski didn’t perform bad that year either, he came in second, bopping to his music all along the away.

I was at that barista competiton with a very good and dear friend Reggie Black –  we both were in awe at what we saw and what we didn’t see. As humans, what we saw, were humans of all character wholly invested in a room telling a story about something they loved and peripheral knowledge curated around constructed booths where culture in the form of lifestyle, food and fashion existed.. What I didn’t see and what propelled the start of the cultural revolution of this space becoming invested in competition culture  was a documentation of the coffee, the music, the style – in a format that spoke to me, included me and that I could relate to. If it was missing for me and my companion, that was enough; I knew it had to be missing for others.

Thus began the last four years of documenting competitions socially through a lens that befits first, what I feel is important and that importance derives from what I see and hear, and experience daily and weekly being a consumer and a lover of a space that bridges humans all over the world. Music is a great connector and its right that it is the art that I attribute a deeper dive into the culture of coffee too.

This year, there are some major changes to what has been The US Coffee Championships. Instead of regional competitions and sectioned off destinations, all competitors qualifying for the US Coffee Champion title compete in Kansas City 2-5th. Those that qualify will move  on to the U.S. Coffee Championship, April 14-17.

When this platform covers a competition its goal is simple, to document the coffee, the zeitgeist of the contemporary conversation around it – ideas, concepts, progressivism in coffee – and its music central to culture and the culture of a coffee shop. The beauty of thought and complexity prepared in advance to a now ten minute routine is one way this culture gets to have its beloved center – coffee – on a worldwide stage.

There’s a live stream provided by Pacific Foods in association with the SCAA here. Livestreams are important, not just for the coffee industry to tune in to, but for anyone who may be curious about the stories that every coffee can inspire. Every coffee is a story; lets be inspired.