The Making of Champions

TThe Journey to the 2017 World Coffee Championships

The journey to find this year’s coffee champions began in autumn 2016 when the first of more than 75 competitions was held in Mexico. 25 traces the steps that lead coffee’s top competitors to the world stages of Budapest, Seoul and Guangzhou.

The world of competitive coffee is wide. Over 60 different licensed bodies put on at least one sanctioned championship event each year – on average, that’s a single event, often a Barista Championship, but each year more and more countries are staging additional championships, including the Brewers Cup, Latte Art, Coffee in Good Spirits, Cup Tasters, and Cezve/Ibrik Championships. The scale of these events can vary, from elaborate heats and preliminaries over many days to more intimate productions of championships fitting into the schedule of an allied trade show or community host.

The 2017 World Coffee Championships begin in June at World of Coffee Budapest with the World Brewers Cup, World Latte Art, World Coffee in Good Spirits, and World Cup Tasters Championships. By that point over 75 different national events will have been held with various combinations of competitions. Some of these events have histories stretching all the way back to the first World Barista Championships in Monaco in 2000 where 14 countries competed, while some of them are newer organizations or new competitions that have been added to respond to growing competitor interest.

The first event of this year’s cycle of coffee competitions was the Competencia Mexicana de Baristas, produced by the Asociación Mexicana De Cafes Y Cafeterias De Especialidad at the Expo Café trade show in Mexico City last September 1–3. Ecuador was next, with the Asociación de Cafés Especiales del Ecuador putting on the fourth edition of their Barista Championship. The very same weekend, the Taiwan Coffee Association held the 13th Taiwanese Barista Championship (one of the longer running competitions), alongside the Taiwan Latte Art and Coffee in Good Spirits Championships at the Taiwan International Coffee Show. The next weekend was another veteran competition: the 15th annual National Barista Championship of Puerto Rico, at the Coffee & Chocolate Expo. From there, the championships start stacking up quickly, with a brief pause at the end of the year leading up to a spring overflowing with global competition. In April, there were 12 different championship events, with multiple competitions each weekend.

One of the most exciting stories to develop out of the nationals season is Gabriel Céspedes, 2015 and 2016 World Cup Tasters Champion, once again winning El Campeonato de Catadores de Costa Rica. This means he will be heading to Budapest to compete for his World Cup Tasters Championship crown for an incredible third year in a row. With three simultaneous competition stages for the in-person attendees at World of Coffee, and the over 75,000 people expected to tune in to watch live online, Budapest is going to be full of competitive action to watch.

WBC Evolution

The year of coffee competition comes to a head with the 2017 World Barista Championship, which heads to Cafe Show Seoul November 9–12 with title sponsor, Ediya Coffee. There are a number of exciting evolutions being made to the WBC format in 2017, spearheaded by the competition veterans on the WBC Evolution Working Group.

As the competition prepares to crown the 18th World Barista Champion, one of the more exciting evolutions is the new stage layout selection. For the first time, competitors will be able to choose from one of nine different station layouts, including multiple height and seating options, opening up many new service potentials. The format changes in 2017 are exclusive to the World Barista Championship, and not the many national championships taking place. Every competitor will face a brand new set of challenges and opportunities in Seoul as they compete in front of the massive CafeShow crowds, and the more than 100,000 people expected to watch online.

The last competition of the year will be the World Coffee Roasting Championship, which will take place at the Hotelex show in Guangzhou. Headlining the Hotelex Guangzhou show is a great opportunity for focus and energy around this newer competition, which is seeing updates in evaluation procedures this year based on standardized roaster protocols, and greater streamlining and flexibility.

The first World Barista Championship was held in Monaco in 2000, and in the nearly 20 years since, the esteem and spirit of global specialty coffee has skyrocketed. Through the hard work and dedication of national event organizers, judges, volunteers, and of course the incredible dedication and effort of competitors, global coffee competition has grown along with the industry, capturing the incredible transnational appeal of coffee and the people who come together around it.

Join the world in Seoul in November to see the Championship’s next evolution, or watch online at worldbaristachampionship.org.