Barista Competitions – A Brief History & Explanation

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Coffee competitions have been around for about 20 years now. These are events where lovers of specialty coffee come to share knowledge, network, and showcase the various advancements in the coffee industry. 

What is a barista competition?

A barista competition is an event where people from different countries compete to produce the best espresso-based coffee drinks. There are several annual regional competitions in several countries, with the World Barista Competition (WBC) being the main event.

Barista competitions are the most exciting events for coffee lovers and barista culture enthusiasts. Let’s look at the barista competition history, rules, and skills needed to take home a trophy.

A Brief History of The Barista Competitions

Barista competitions began in Norway, where the first Barista competition was organized in 1998. Cooking competitions inspired Alf Kramer, and, together with Willy Hansen, Arvid Skvoli, and Tone Liavaag, they organized the first-ever barista competition.

The success of this first competition led to the birth of the Specialty Coffee Association Europe (SCAE), where Kramer pitched the idea of having a World Barista Championship (WBC). The SCAE board went ahead with the idea, and the first World Barista Championship was held in 2000 in Monte Carlo. 

Twelve countries participated in the competition, and the event received a lot of media attention, which led to other countries starting their matches at a national level. Despite every country creating its own coffee competitions, they are still guided by the same rules of the original WBC. 

Since the beginning of the WBC, the event has been happening mainly around Europe and America. In 2007, the championship was held in Tokyo with great success. This was the same year the championship event was live online.

Over the years, the WBC has seen many significant changes in the rules to become more inclusive and accommodating to different cultures. Additionally, in 2018, a woman won the championship for the first time.

Today, World Coffee Events runs the WBC, formed by the SCAE and SCAA. Barista competitions have been a consistent event since 2000 until the pandemic disrupted it. Fortunately, the event will be held this year at the Melbourne International Coffee Expo in September. 

How Do Barista Competitions Work?

The barista competition takes place in three rounds over two days. There are usually more than 60 countries participating in the championship.

After the first two preliminary rounds, this number will be cut down to 15 competitors. One wildcard competitor will also be allowed to advance to the semifinals with the 15.

After the semifinal competitions, only six baristas remain.

These brilliant coffee makers will advance to the final round of the competition, and the final round winner will be crowned the world’s best barista.

The champions walk away with a cash prize and formal recognition for their coffee-making skills. Additionally, these winners get to advance in their careers because some of the biggest employers worldwide want to hire them.

The participants are allocated 44 minutes each during every stage of the competition. The 44 minutes are segmented as follows:

  • 7 minutes for set-up
  • 15 minutes for preparation
  • 15 minutes for the presentation/performance
  • 7 minutes for the cleanup

In the routine, the baristas have to prepare and serve a total of 12 drinks: 

  • 4x milk beverages
  • 4x signature beverages (a non-alcoholic espresso-based cocktail)
  • 4x espresso drinks

The following people will be present to judge and give points in relation to taste, technique, and most importantly, presentation.

  • 4x sensory judges
  • 1 technical judge
  • 1 head judge 

Presentation is vital during evaluating the baristas’ drinks because baristas with extra creativity get some extra points for the work of art.

The taste of the final finished drink is also essential, with keen attention to originality for the signature drinks.

Who Can Participate in Barista Competitions?

Most participants in coffee competitions are professionals that have attended barista school and are experts in specialty coffee. However, anybody can register and compete in barista competitions.

Participants will receive a list of all the requirements and rules before the competition. This is to help familiarize themselves with the terms and conditions of the championship.

Whether you are an experienced barista or not, it can take years to master the art of making coffee at a competitive level. You have to know more than how to use a coffee maker. You must have adequate knowledge about coffee and be able to present or perform in front of judges. 

4 Skills You Need to Become a Barista Champion

Making coffee can be your favorite thing, but it can be a nerve-wracking experience to do it in front of an audience.

If you are willing to get out of your comfort zone, here are a few qualities that will help you become the next barista champion:

1. Consistency

When it comes to coffee making and training, consistency is the key.

It goes hand in hand with discipline, which will push you to keep trying until you can do it the same way each time.

Additionally, it would be best if you had precision and meticulousness, do not settle for good enough, go for the best, and make sure you achieve the same results each time.

2. Passion

The secret to achieving success in what you do is your passion for it.

For example, you can create the perfect coffee drink without even following the recipe if you have passion. Instead, it will keep you focused while practicing design after design until you achieve a flawless, consistent pattern.

However, passion does not just come – you have to nurture it by attending regular events that showcase barista skills.

3. Discipline

Training in preparation for the barista competitions is not easy.

First, you must forgo your plans and wake up early to perfect your recipes.

Sometimes it can get boring, but your discipline will keep you going. Keep practicing every routine until you can do it without thinking.

4. Confidence

Before getting into WBC, it is best to believe in yourself and your hands.

Although the barista competition is a hard and stiff one, do not dwell on your areas of weakness. Instead, have confidence in yourself and set your mind to winning. As you keep making coffee, you gain more confidence.

Barista competitions have evolved significantly from 6 to over 50 countries and potential winners. As a result, the coffee-producing countries have seen significant development, and the competition has been the bridge connecting the consuming and the producing countries.