The Barista League is the renegade coffee competition you dream of—the rules are simple, the challenges are fun, and the spirit is light. As The Barista League travels to Oslo, we take a peek at what the future looks like for Stephen Moloney’s ever-surprising competition.
BY ASHLEY RODRIGUEZ
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
If you’re a frequent reader of Barista Magazine Online, you’ve probably heard of The Barista League, a friendly and fun coffee event that eschews the complicated rules and formalities of other competitions. Participants work in pairs and are thrown challenging yet amusing tasks, while the crowd is encouraged to cheer on and have a good time. We’ve covered their events in Helsinki, Gothenburg, and Copenhagen, highlighting the fun, loose, and wacky nature of the competition. Everyone, regardless of their skill set or background, is invited to participate, and The Barista League crew is taking their next event to Oslo, Norway, on March 24. But that’s just the beginning.
The Barista League started as an idea from Stephen Moloney, a two-time Swedish Barista Champion, in 2015 when he noticed that, although baristas are often the connecting point for customers and specialty coffee, they are often left out of the fun and interesting aspects of the industry. “I wanted to create a competition that is all about baristas,” Stephen says. “We invite them to just turn up, compete, learn, have fun, and drink some beers together,” he says. The very first competition was born out of a get-together of 10 baristas in a countryside roastery in Sweden; it has since expanded to events all over Europe, hosting roughly four competitions per year. This year, however, the competition and platform will expand to include a coffee bicycle race (called Kaffekat) in Copenhagen; a Midsummer Party at the World Barista Championship in Amsterdam; and a USA tour, hitting Portland, Ore., Kansas City, Mo., Greenville, S.C., and Philadelphia in the fall of 2018.
Along with expanding the competition, The Barista League has also created a newsletter to celebrate other coffee organizations doing interesting things. “The idea is to create an informative newsletter of upcoming events and news from us, but more importantly, act as a platform to showcase other counter-culture events/clubs/movements around the world,” shares Ash Day, communications director for The Barista League. “We’ve always tried from the beginning to change the way the coffee industry competes, but we aren’t the only ones challenging the status quo,” Ash notes. In the inaugural newsletter, The Barista League profiles WINCC (Women Investing in Northwest Coffee Competitions) and interviews cofounder Caryn Nelson of Junior’s Roasted Coffee and Guilder in Portland, Ore.
For now, The Barista League is excited for the upcoming competition in Oslo. The competition will be broken up into three parts: barista skills, sensory skills, and a mystery third round that will only be revealed before the round starts. The two-person teams have already been decided, and include baristas from all across Europe (with aptly comical names like “Single soylatte extra hot” and “greenbeankillingmachine”). Judges include Belle Montanus of Bocca Coffee Roasters, Chloe Nattrass of Bonanza Coffee Roasters, and Cristiano Mourao of Ally Coffee. Generally, the winners of The Barista League receive a mystery trip to origin, courtesy of Ally Coffee, but the winners of this competition will be sent to World of Coffee in Amsterdam, where they will be invited to participate in the Midsummer Party, take a tour of the city, and be given a coffee master class by a yet-to-be-revealed special guest.
There’s a lot happening with The Barista League right now—if you want to learn more, check out their website, where you can see their 2018 tour schedule, buy tickets for the upcoming event in Oslo, or buy some of the amazing T-shirts designed for each competition! We’ll continue to cover the slate of 2018 competitions and keep you posted on sign-ups for the United States tour!