U.S. CoffeeChamps Qualifying Event in Reno Sends Lots of Talent Through to Nationals

The first of two qualifying events for the U.S. Coffee Championships just unfolded over two fun days in Reno.


* Rankings for the Barista, Cup Tasters, and Roaster contests that took place in Reno, Nev., are listed below. The Brewers Cup ranking, however, is under review, and will be posted as soon as the SCA releases the list.

Earlier this year, eight coffee events called preliminary competitions took place around the country. This was the inaugural year for the prelims, as they were designed and produced as part of the governing body Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) in an effort to give competitors something besides just a national, but not going back to the beloved regional format. The reasoning was that smaller, more localized events—with a much lower registration price tag than higher-level competitions—would give newcomers a chance to get their feet wet in the coffee competition circuit. Feedback was more or less positive from the events: We covered them all here at Barista Magazine Online as follows: Seattle; Portland, Ore.; Greenville, S.C.; Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.; Denver; Washington, D.C.; Louisville, Ky.; and Tulsa, Okla.

If novice competitors were attracted to those more intimate gatherings, few made the trek to Reno, Nev., over the weekend of December 9–10 to compete in the first of two qualifying coffee competitions. (The second will be held in New Orleans February 3–4). This is essentially round two: Competitors in Reno were vying for spots in the national championships to be held at the Global Specialty Coffee Expo in Seattle in April 2018. Granted, there were some new faces, but the crowd gathered at Reno’s Atlantis Casino, Spa, and Resort seemed either quite familiar with competitions in general, or they hailed from companies whose participation in the competitions goes back years. That’s all to say that this was an impressive, veteran group. Does that mean the prelims served their purpose? Either side could be argued.

The real topic on my mind walking into this event was the industry-wide upset over the recent, quite sloppy, political moves made by the SCA, which is a global entity, centered around an announcement in November that the SCA (and World Coffee Events) would move forward with the widely disputed and protested decision to hold the 2018 World Brewers Cup Championship in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, a country known for extreme human rights violations. Further, the coffee community has been incensed by the policy the SCA offered up as a sort of Band-Aid for competitors who wouldn’t be comfortable traveling to Dubai, called the Deferred Candidacy Policy (DCP). You can read more about these issues here and here.

There had been much discussion of boycotting the qualifying contests, though in the end, all the competition slots at the Reno event were filled. Some attendees wore Force Majeure pins created to signify a stance against the DCP and the Dubai location decision. And a sizable crowd attended the town hall meeting held the night prior to competition, led by Laila Ghambari and Jen Apodaca, to discuss next steps. There was not, however, much unrest or even discussion of the DCP and Dubai decision beyond that.

Perhaps that was in part due to a statement released by the U.S. Coffee Championships Working Group on Wednesday of last week:

The U.S. Competitions Working Group for the United States Coffee Championships (USCC) exists to create and foster safe spaces and events for professional development and community engagement through coffee competitions in the U.S. for its coffee community. The U.S. Working Group supports all participants including our future champions’ decisions on how they would like to participate in the 2018 season.

In light of the Specialty Coffee Association’s (SCA) recent announcement regarding the Deferred Candidate policy, and how international host locations are chosen, it is important to clarify that the U.S. Competitions Working Group, which is composed of volunteers, and various sub competition working groups, are not consulted in any decisions regarding venues, city locations, policies or any other aspects for World Competitions. While we as a group are discouraged and disheartened by the communications and decisions made by WCE and the SCA Board, we will continue to support our U.S. CoffeeChamps events and National Competitions as well as those competitors, volunteers, and judges who choose to participate.

The U.S. Competitions Working Group would also like to acknowledge and support all volunteers, judges, competitors, and sponsors in their decision on how to bring change and inclusivity to all SCA members on the international level. We are so thankful for the passion and energy all participants bring to the competition community. 

Would you like to compete or judge or volunteer? We support you.

Would you prefer to withdraw to express your disagreement? We support you.

We respect everyone’s decision on how they would like to engage going forward. There have been great conversations, thoughts, and suggestions coming from the town halls being held, and the FAQ (Click Here) & webinars (Click Here) have quite a bit of information and background on the situation. We encourage everyone to get as much information as possible and stay informed, communicate, and engage with the SCA Board. There will be a town hall hosted prior to CoffeeChamps Reno this weekend. We encourage all that are attending CoffeeChamps in Reno to come to the town hall and become informed and bring constructive ideas on how change can look and work moving forward.

Reno Town Hall | Friday 12/8 @6pm
Hub Coffee Roasters Riverside Café
727 Riverside Dr, Reno, NV 89503

We gain more when we stand and work together. The U.S. Competitions Working Group is here to support its competition community in every capacity it can. Compete, judge, volunteer, or not, we stand by you, we hear you. This group will continue to work hard and make competitions more accessible to everyone. This year we have created the opportunity for 204 Baristas, 162 Brewers to take stage through the U.S. Preliminary Competitions, 120 Baristas, 72 Brewers, 72 Tasters, and 60 Roasters to take stage, through the Qualifying Competitions at CoffeeChamps, and 36 Baristas, 24 Brewers, 30 Tasters, 12 Roasters at the U.S. Coffee Championships in Seattle. We support you.

We are thrilled to see you very soon in Reno and New Orleans for the USCC Qualifying Events.

Miguel Vicuna
Chair of the U.S. Competitions Working Group

Moving on to the photos:

Veteran barista competitor Mike Marquard (far right) of Blueprint Coffee in St. Louis served coffee at the Barista Guild bar.
Two-time U.S. Brewers Cup Champion Todd Goldsworthy oversaw the Brewers Cup competition at the qualifying event in Reno as the head judge.
Becky Reeves is the co-founder of WINCC, a competitor resource library dedicated to serving women and minority competitors. Becky and co-founder Caryn Nelson started WINCC in response to consistently low numbers of women and minorities in coffee competitions. Becky lives in Las Vegas, and she drove out to Reno with a car full of gear to support competitors in need.
Cole McBride has consistently placed high in regionals and qualifying competitions, and the Reno event was no exception. The veteran competitor took third place in the Barista event.
Part of the event was a Roasters Village, where companies could buy space to brew their coffee for attendees. Temple Coffee Roasters, pictured, which is based in Sacramento, Calif., had lines for their coffees all weekend long.
Andrew Gomez of Wilbur Curtis oversaw the U.S. Cup Tasters Championship qualifying competition, engaging a big crowd in the always-exciting reveal of correct versus incorrect cups in this arduous test.
Congratulations to the Brewers Cup competitors who advanced to the United States Brewers Cup event in April in Seattle.
Bravo to these roasters qualifying for the United States Roaster Championship in Seattle in April.

#1. Reef Bessette, Saint Frank Coffee, San Francisco (Score: 279)
#2. Eli Ramirez, Halfwit Coffee Roasters, Chicago (Score: 277)
#3. Cole McBride, Independent, Seattle (Score: 270.5)
#4. Kay Cheon, Dune Coffee Roasters, Santa Barbara, Calif. (Score: 265.5)
#5. Naida Lindberg, Verve Coffee, Santa Cruz, Calif. (Score: 260.5)
#6: Edward Griffin, PT’s Coffee, Topeka, Kan. (Score: 258.5)
#7. Mike Marquard, Blueprint Coffee, St. Louis (Score: 257.5)
#8. Emily Orendorff, Boxcar Coffee Roasters, Denver (Score: 250)
#9. Chelsea Rae, The Roost, Lawrence, Kan. (Score: 250)
#10. Lizzie Rodrigue, Bluebeard Coffee Roasters, Tacoma, Wash. (Score: 248.5)
#11. Howard Chang, Space Craft Coffee, Brooklyn, N.Y. (Score: 247.5)
#12. Shepherd Wadley, Huckleberry Roasters, Denver (Score: 247)
#13. Mike Greene, Stovetop Roasters, Holland, Mich. (Score: 246.5)
#14. David Castillo, Joe Coffee Co., New York (Score 244.5)
#15. Erin Tarectecan, Crema Coffee House, Denver (Score: 235)
#16. Tae-Wan Kim, Brew Well, Kindness and Mischief, Arcadia, Calif. (Score: 233)
#17. Heather McCullough, Novo Coffee, Denver (Score: 226.5)
#18: Sam Brown, Pilcrow Coffee, Milwaukee (Score: 225)

#1. Justin Goodhart, Sweet Bloom, Denver (Score: 161.14)
#2. Jacob White, Bird Rock Coffee Roasters, San Diego (Score: 157.94)
#3. Sloane Wachob, Novo Coffee, Denver (Score: 157.5)
#4. Sam Schroeder, Olympia Coffee Roasting, Olympia, Wash. (Score: 156.03)
#5. Emmeline Wang, Saint Frank Coffee, San Francisco (Score: 155.59)
#6. Matt Foster, Kaldi’s Coffee Roasting, St. Louis (Score: 155.19)
#7. Jennifer Hwang, Klatch Coffee, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. (Score: 155.13)
#8. Andy Tan, Equator Coffees and Teas, Fairfaix, Calif. (Score: 155)
#9. Michael White, Independent, Baltimore (Score: 154.95)
#10. Jason Reed Miller, Mazarine Coffee, San Francisco (Score: 154.3)
#11. Blair Smith, Augie’s Coffee Roasters, Redlands, Calif. (Score: 153.48)
#12. Jon French, Black Oak Coffee Roasters, Ukiah, Calif. (Score: 152.58)
#13. Kelly Hill, Temple Coffee Roasters, Sacramento, Calif. (Score: 151.19)
#14. Samantha Sun, La Colombe, Brooklyn (Score: 151.13)

#1. Evan Inatome, Elixr Coffee, Philadelphia (Score: 129.46)
#2. Ian Picco, Topeka Coffee Roasters, Tulsa, Okla. (Score: 125.67)
#3. Andrew Oberholzer, Joe Coffee Co., New York (Score: 124.71)
#4. Taylor Gresham, Evocation Coffee Roasters, Canyon, Texas (Score: 122.53)
#5. Janine Cindy, Joe Bean Coffee Roasters, Rochester, N.Y. (Score: 121.75)
#6. Evan Schubarth, Switchback Coffee Roasters, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Score: 121.71)

#1. Tommy Tae U Kim, Balrog Coffee Roastery, Los Angeles (6 cups, 3:34)
#2. Eduard Andrusyak, Chocolate Fish Coffee Roasters, Sacramento, Calif. (6 cups, 5:34)
#3. Adam Christopher Snow, Beans & Bagels, Chicago (5 cups, 2:50)
#4. Charles Lambert, Boxcar Coffee Roasters, Boulder, Colo. (5 cups, 2:55)
#5. Ben Heins, Crop to Cup, Chicago (5 cups, 3:41)
#6. Ken Selby, Visions Espresso, Seattle (5 cups, 3:49)
#7. Austin Amento, Augie’s Coffee Roaster, Calimesa, Calif. (5 cups, 5:01)
#8. Matt Farewell, Dune Coffee Roasters, Santa Barbara, Calif. (5 cups, 5:52)
#9. Jennifer Hwang, Klatch Coffee, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. (4 cups, 1:55)
#10. Jon Ferguson, Arbor Day Foundation, Lincoln, Neb. (4 cups, 2:15)
#11. Ian Picco, Topeka Coffee Roasters, Tulsa, Okla. (4 cups, 2:26)
#12. Jen McElroy, Klatch Coffee, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. (4 cups, 2:39)
#13. Miguel Vicuna, Sweet Bloom, Denver (4 cups, 2:42)
#14. Spencer Aidukaits, Peixoto, Tempe, Ariz. (4 cups, 3:35)
#15. David Wilson, Coffeebar, Reno, Nev. (4 cups, 3:41)

About Sarah 934 Articles
Sarah Allen (she/her) is co-founder and editor of Barista Magazine, the international trade magazine for coffee professionals. A passionate advocate for baristas, quality, and the coffee community, Sarah has traveled widely to research stories, interact with readers, and present on a variety of topics affecting specialty coffee. She also loves animals, swimming, ice cream, and living in Portland, Oregon.


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