In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the popular competition series is heading online—and welcoming applications from the barista community.
BY CHRIS RYAN
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Feature photo by Paige Hicks
As the specialty-coffee industry’s spring and summer trade show schedule has been erased due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s not only the shows themselves that have been either canceled or postponed, but the accompanying parties and side events as well. One impacted event series is The Barista League, producer of community-driven coffee competitions, which so far has postponed two events and canceled two due to the pandemic.
With no clear roadmap to when large gatherings can once again occur, The Barista League has taken its competition series digital with the launch of The Barista League: Online, and is inviting baristas from around the world to apply to take part. To apply, baristas will create and submit a 3-to-5-minute video of them brewing coffee; they can do this either via the online application form, or simply by uploading their video to Instagram and tagging @thebaristaleague and #thebaristaleagueonline. From there, a remote selection committee will narrow the applicants down to eight finalists, and the competition will proceed as a web series hosted by Erika Vonie.
Steven Moloney, founder of The Barista League, says they will send challenges to the eight finalists, who will record themselves completing them. The Barista League team will then cut together episodes that will be released weekly. “We have some really fun challenges lined up and a bunch of special guests and judges—so we hope that each episode will not only detail each challenge but will be a fun, informative watch,” Steven says.
He says that they came up with the idea to head online after numerous Barista League events were canceled but the team still wanted to connect with the coffee community. “We started brainstorming about things that we could do, what would make sense for us as a team, and what would be helpful for the community that is struggling so much,” he says. “For me personally the constant news, posts, podcasts, and articles that were only ever about the coronavirus were making me more stressed out than informed, and we wanted to do something that wasn’t directly about the pandemic but gave people something to tune in for or engage with if they wanted to.”
Steven adds that because of the restrictions from people self-isolating and in hopes of presenting a fun distraction from the current situation, this edition of The Barista League will focus more on entertainment than competition. “Doing a coffee competition online in the age of coronavirus presents some really bizarre limitations,” Steven says. “You can’t put the judge and the competitor in the same place, so that basically bars any brewing challenge or any judging based on tasting. … So we ended up with this format where the content would primarily come from each of the competitors and we would clip it all together into a fast-paced, fun, episodic coffee competition.”
He says The Barista League team is in uncharted waters hosting a virtual competition rather than an in-the-flesh affair, but they are looking forward to taking on the challenge. “I work with two awesome colleagues, and for this project we have a great video editor in Carolyn West and an amazing host in Erika Vonie,” he says. “So between the five of us, the numerous other collaborators who are joining in on the project, and just a lot of work, I think we are putting together something fun.”
Head here for all the details on The Barista League: Online, and submit your application here or via Instagram. The deadline for video submissions is April 20, and finalists will be noticed by April 25 if they’re selected for the competition. The episodes will be released weekly starting at the end of April.