The 2016 US Barista Championship happened this past week in Atlanta, GA. You may not even be aware that there WAS a “Barista Championship”. Well, I’m here to tell you that there very definitely is and it’s a pretty big deal. In fact, it’s one of several coffee competitions that happen worldwide and include things like the Aeropress Championship, Brewers Cup and a whole lot more. Coffee people love showing off their coffee.
This year, the US Barista Champion is Lemuel Butler from Counter Culture coffee. If you start watching this video starting at around the 26 minute mark, you’ll be able to watch his performance at last week’s competition:
What’s a Barista Competition all about?
There’s an awful lot that goes into a barista competition. There are several judges (seven total!) not only tasting the drinks but also watching every move the baristas make while they’re making their drinks. Baristas are scored not only on the quality of their drinks, but also on their efficiency, cleanliness, and a number of technical aspects of how they make their drinks.
A Barista Competition is as much about making great coffee drinks as it is about the performance that goes into it. Each competitor spends a ton of time preparing for the event, sourcing their coffee, cupping, and hours of practicing. Not to mention developing coffee recipes and drinks that will highlight what the barista is looking for in their coffee and working with their roasters to create the perfect roast for their coffee. These competitors are, without a doubt the “crema” of the crop in the coffee business.
If you’d like to get a better idea of what’s happening during the performance aside the competitor’s performance, you can check out a video from Laila Ghambari (2014 US Barista Champion and long time competitor) done in a VH1 pop-up video style that will show you what the judges are looking for in the performance and what the technical judges are doing as well.