A Recap of The Barista League: Online’s First Two Episodes

The Barista League: Online Episodes 1 and 2 introduced the eight finalists who will compete in the organization’s first-ever remote barista championship.

BY ANGELA FERRARA
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE

After a three-week application period and almost 90 application videos submitted, The Barista League: Online’s remote Selection Committee narrowed the pool of candidates down to eight finalists. These finalists will be challenged to guess the origin of five coffees, build a drink from a box of mystery ingredients, and roast the same green coffee two ways. The competitor with the highest overall score will win a spot on The Barista League’s Mystery Coffee Vacation, a five-day, coffee-fueled adventure to a mystery location. Each competitor will film themselves completing these three challenges, and The Barista League will air the footage in episodes for the world to follow. In case you missed Episode 1 or 2, which introduced the finalists, you can read more about them below, and click each contestant’s name for their video!

Demi is ready for Challenge 2, which she thinks sounds like an episode of Chopped! Photo by Paige Hicks.

Demi Chacón (She/Her) – Barista, Bandit Coffee
Competing from Tampa, Fla., USA

How long have you worked in coffee?
Five years.
What’s your favorite brew method?
Poursteady.
What was the inspiration behind your application video?
I think my inspiration was mostly Vine videos. I wanted it to be really quick and I tried to edit it so that it was never more than 10 seconds of the same scene. And then I just didn’t edit out any of the dumb jokes I made. I just brewed coffee and didn’t edit anything out!
What round of The Barista League: Online are you most excited about? Round 2: The Mystery Box Challenge. It sounds just like Chopped on The Food Network. I’m so excited for that!
What should The Barista League: Online audience know about you?
Well, Im a really secretive person. I don’t like telling people things about myself. But really, I’m not what you would expect. That’s all I’m gonna give them!
Fun Fact: Demi drove eight hours from Florida to South Carolina to compete in her first ever coffee competition in 2018, The Barista League: Greenville … and she won!

Marleigh’s submission included a handmade Kalita Wave from clay. Photo by Sarah Kistner.

Marleigh Chaney (She/Her) – Coffee Expert, River Bottom Roasters
Competing from Waynesboro, Pa., USA

How long have you worked in coffee?
Three years.
What’s your favorite brew method?
AeroPress.
What was the inspiration behind your application video?
Honestly, at first I didn’t have any inspiration. I really wanted to do something creative and I remembered that I had clay around the house and thought, why not try to make a Kalita Wave out of clay? And it totally worked!
What round of The Barista League: Online are you most excited about? Round 2 and Round 3. Round 2 because I really enjoy getting crafty, mixing random ingredients together, and getting to taste it. Round 3 because I really want to improve my roasting skills.
What should The Barista League: Online audience know about you?
I don’t think anyone should have shame about what they’re passionate about! That’s one of the biggest things working in coffee has taught me.
Fun Fact: Marleigh has a degree in gender studies and volunteers with the International Women’s Coffee Alliance.

Stephen used four different brewers for his submission video, earning him a spot as a competitor. Photo by R. Jordan N. Sanchez.

Stephen Houston (He/Him) – Head Roaster, Bailie’s Coffee
Competing from Belfast, Northern Ireland

How long have you worked in coffee?
Six years.
What’s your favorite brew method?
Kalita Wave (small).
What was the inspiration behind your application video?
I have a lot of brewing equipment and I always have this pondering moment in the morning about what to use to brew my coffee that day. That got me thinking about if I could use more than one. So, using four brewers at once started as a bit of a joke. But I know this competition is meant to be some fun, so I figured, there’s no one tasting this and I wanted to see if I could do it!
What round of The Barista League: Online are you most excited about?
I’m most looking forward to the DIY roasting round! Roasting is something I do nearly every day, so I’m a bit more confident in it, but we’ll have to see how I get on trying to roast at home without a roaster!
What should The Barista League: Online audience know about you?
I love this community. I love competing and I love to meet new people! I’m just here to have some fun.
Fun Fact: Stephen is a former competitive kickboxer.

Kat is ready to roast coffee again for The Barista League: Online’s third challenge. Photo by Abby Thompson.

Kat Melheim (She/Her) – Founder/Editor, Coffee People Zine
Competing from Stillwater, Minn., USA

How long have you worked in coffee?
Seven years.
What’s your favorite brew method?
Espresso.
What round of The Barista League: Online are you most excited about? Round 3, the roasting challenge. I love roasting and I really miss it a lot. So, I’m looking forward to the opportunity to get to roast again.
What was the inspiration behind your application video?
I wanted to make something that was very applicable to current times. I tried to pick elements of the COVID recommendations and try to reinforce them. So I thought of things like … how can I brew a coffee from six feet away? How could I sanitize it?
What should The Barista League: Online audience know about you?
That’s a big question! I’m super excited to do this. I’m looking forward to connecting with the other competitors and the folks watching.
Fun Fact: In her free time, Kat studies rosemaling, a decorative folk painting of Norway.

MiMo leads the double life of a barista/bartender supreme as a member of both Sey Coffee and Shaka Shaka Tiki. Photo by Mika Turbo.

MiMo (They/Them) – Production, Sey Coffee & Co-Owner, Shaka Shaka Tiki
Competing from Brooklyn, New York, USA

How long have you worked in coffee?
Six years.
What’s your favorite brew method?
Fellow Stagg.
What round of The Barista League: Online are you most excited about?
The roasting. I’ve never done anything like that before. I think the cupping and making sig bevs are in my zone but I’m pretty excited to step outside my comfort zone for Round 3.
What was the inspiration behind your application video?
The inspiration was quaran-tiki! I wanted to make a video that people could follow with ingredients that they might have at home. I also used it as an opportunity to practice my competition vibe.
What should The Barista League: Online audience know about you?
I’m really silly and I like to laugh at my own jokes.
Fun Fact: MiMo’s favorite cocktail is a rum and coke. Make sure to add some orange zest!

An won the New Zealand AeroPress Championship after having never used the brewer before! Photo by Yuki Zhang.

An Nguyen (He/Him) – Field Rep, Jacobs Douwe Egberts
Competing from Auckland, New Zealand

How long have you worked in coffee?
15 years.
What’s your favorite brew method?
Any full-immersion method.
What round of The Barista League: Online are you most excited about?
I’m most looking forward to identifying the coffee origins, Round 1. That’s a very fun one!
What was the inspiration behind your application video?
I really wanted to put the New Zealand DIY spirit into my concept! And so I showed some examples of how to grind your coffee where I’m smashing the beans and running them over with a car to be funny. The cocktail recipe that I used was the same that I used at a CIGS throwdown to win. So it was a real recipe!
What should The Barista League: Online audience know about you?
I think there’s so many ways to approach coffee. There’s a cup of coffee for everyone.
Fun Fact: An won the New Zealand AeroPress Championship in 2018 despite having never used the brewer before.

Kendra believes that the one community that can definitely persist through COVID-19 is the coffee community. Photo by Kendra Sledzinski.

Kendra Sledzinski (She/Her) – Educator/Trainer, Joe Coffee
Competing from Philadelphia, USA

How long have you worked in coffee?
13 years.
What’s your favorite brew method?
Clever Dripper.
What round of The Barista League: Online are you most excited about? Round 3! The DIY roast. That’s going to be a lot of fun and I’m really looking forward to hearing what the judge thinks of the coffee I roast on my stove.
What was the inspiration behind your application video?
I see all these brew videos from coffee companies online that aren’t really meeting people where they’re at. I don’t think giving people super technical brewing advice really makes them trust us as their coffee purveyors. So I thought I’d make a video that brings people along on the journey with me.
What should The Barista League: Online audience know about you?
I’m a fierce advocate for baristas. I am so thankful for the way the coffee community is staying connected to one another right now. If there’s any industry that can do it, it’s us!
Fun Fact: Kendra co-created the 2017 wage survey in Philadelphia, prompting many café owners to increase their baristas’ wages.

Nicolas is always willing to experiment with coffee through fusion and other fun brewing ideas. Photo by Juanma Rada.

Nicolas Vargas Ochoa (He/Him) – Barista/Roaster, Roaster Boutique
Competing from La Paz, Bolivia

How long have you worked in coffee?
Three years.
What’s your favorite brew method?
V60.
What round of The Barista League: Online are you most excited about?
I’m looking forward to the roasting round because I’ve never roasted on an Ikawa so it might be a fun challenge for me.
What was the inspiration behind your application video?
The inspiration for my video is my life! I am always mixing coffee into everything. So in my video I made a fruit salad iced coffee.
What should The Barista League: Online audience know about you?
I’m a little bit crazy with coffee! I always want to make coffee in new ways, whether it’s on different foods or with three filters instead of one. I’m always trying something different.
Fun Fact: Nicolas plays the violin.

Rounds 1, 2 and 3 of the competition will be aired as episodes on YouTube over the next three weeks, followed by a finale to announce the winner of The Barista League: Online! In addition to the finalists’ completion of these intense coffee challenges, viewers can expect appearances from some special guests and a ton of surprises that you’ll need to see to believe! Episodes will air every Wednesday at 11 a.m. EDT on The Barista League’s YouTube channel.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Angela Ferrara is the director of communications and social media at The Barista League. She’s based in Baltimore.

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