Kelly’s Next Step: Coffee Competition

By Kelly Hill, Director of Education at Temple Coffee

“So what’s next? When will you open own café? Don’t you have a college degree?”

As a full-time coffee professional, these are the questions you’re asked constantly.

This year, my “what’s next” response was Brewer’s Cup Competition. In the specialty coffee world, competition is often the next step. Every competitive barista has their own reasons to compete, but for me it was about getting out of my comfort zone, to challenge myself, and compete with some of the best in the business.

So what exactly is Brewer’s Cup? Every year the Specialty Coffee Association puts on a number of Coffee Championships, including a Barista Competition, Taster’s Cup, and Brewer’s Cup. A competitor competes at one of two Qualifying Events and, if they score high enough, they move on to compete at the National Event. The winner of the National Event advances to compete in the World Event for the ultimate title in their respective category.

These competitions are very sought-after, expensive, and time-consuming. In an effort to address these issues and make the competitions more approachable, this year the SCA opened up the arena to include several smaller Preliminary Competitions for the Barista and Brewer’s Cup. The top 4 Brewer’s Cup and Top 8 Barista competitors of these Preliminary Competitions are awarded a guaranteed spot at the Qualifying event of their choice.

There was a twist inserted into these Preliminary competitions: rather than bring your own roasted coffee to brew, you were given a choice of coffees provided by the competition host. I had already made up my mind to compete in the 2018 Brewer’s Cup Competition before this change in structure, but because the change was announced just a few months before the event it definitely changed my approach.

Temple’s Director of Coffee Eton Tsuno, our Creative Director Cole Cuchna, and myself decided that I should sign up to compete in two of the Preliminary Brewer’s Cup Competitions in order to get more practice as it was my first time competing. I registered for both the Preliminary Brewer’s Cup competitions being held in Portland, Oregon and in Tulsa, Oklahoma.