US Coffee Championships – what you need to know

by | Mar 10, 2020 | Coffee Education

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During the last few days in February coffee people from across the United States flew to Costa Mesa, CA for a weekend of coffee competitions. Every year, the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) hosts competitions for coffee professionals testing their skills in making espresso, brewing coffee, roasting green coffee, crafting coffee cocktails, or a cup tasting competition. If you’ve ever wondered what the coffee equivalent of Chopped or The Amazing Race is, read on!

From top left to bottom right…The newly crowned US Barista Champion, Andrea Allen from Onyx Coffee Labs in Arkansas. She has been serving judges 4 espressos, 4 milk drinks, and 4 signature beverages for seven years and has officially claimed the title as champion! She will be representing the US at the World Barista Championships in Melbourne, AUS May 4-7, 2020.

First time competitor and national Brewers Cup qualifier, Kristina Jackson, an educator for Inteligentisa Coffee. Kristina brewed three identical cups of coffee on the Kalita wave 185 speaking about the importance of recognizing black baristas, coffee roasters, and producers while getting very sciencey with how her coffees were extracting.

Over at Cup Tasters, competitors select which coffee in the set they taste as different, and then they immediately find out if they were correct! It’s a high energy moment as the emcee, Andrew Gomez of Wilbur Curtis, and competitor together hope there is a “RED DOT!” on the bottom of the cup signifying it was the right answer.

Pouring her final drinks in the Coffee in Good Spirits competition, Kelsey Maccombs, Designer for Glitter Cat, took 3rd place in Orange County, getting her a bid to Nationals! Best part of this competition is after they are done serving judges, competitors serve the audience during a 2pm Happy Hour!

If you want to go down a rabbit hole and learn more about each competition check out  US Coffee Championships (USCC) website and Sprudgelive! has recaps of all of the entire season from Qualifying events to Nationals coverage.

These competitions are more than a field of throwing knowledge and slinging drinks. While it often pushes innovation forward in how to make espresso or combine unique flavors in signature drinks, what is perhaps more powerful is the community it builds. Ask any competitor and you will probably hear that their closest friends and mentors were made, in-part, due to coffee competitions. These events are also open to the public. You can attend and sip coffee at the Roaster’s Village, volunteer backstage, and maybe even find yourself looking for a job in coffee!

Tradecraft Outfitter’s team of educators have all been apart of USCC in some form over the past decade! Lindsey, our Director of Education, is a certified Head judge and has been around that scene for longer than most people we know! Ashley, is a national certified sensory judge, and T. Ben has taken 2nd and 3rd in the United States Barista Championship the past two years! 

Whether you like fashion and flair or nitty-gritty science, researching and following coffee championships could become equally as invigorating as your March Madness bracket.

A special thanks to Wilbur Curtis for letting us use their photos taken by Paige Elizabeth Hicks.

Upcoming Coffee Competition events

  • Nationals for CIGS, Roasters, & Cup Tasters Competitions – Portland, OR April 23-26, 2020
  • World Barista and Brewers Championships – Melbourne, Australia May 4-7, 2020
  • World CIGS, Roasters, & Cup Tasters Championships – Warsaw, Poland June 18-20, 2020
Christa Thomas


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