Big Western Barista Competitions & Camp

By Alexandra LittleJohn
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE

Arriving at Palm Springs’ Omni Rancho Las Palmas ”or other high-end resorts ”for the Barista Guild of America’s (BGA) Barista Camp has become pretty standard over the past few camps. We are no longer the crazy barista kids in tents and yurts, making espresso by light from generators. No! We have elevated to a very sophisticated conference that promotes professional development of baristas. In short, we’ve grown up.

Gianni of Nuova Simonelli holds court during the Big Western barista competitions and Brewers Cup events, which for the first time this year are taking place concurrently with the BGA's Camp.
Gianni of Nuova Simonelli holds court during the Big Western barista competitions and Brewers Cup events, which for the first time this year are taking place concurrently with the BGA’s Camp.

Arriving at the resort for the Big Western Coffee Competition ”which has been taking place for the last few days, continues today, and ends tomorrow ”is new ground for this event, making the regional gathering feel more like a mini-expo. This is the first time that the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) and BGA have hosted these two events concurrent at the same location.

Tommy Kim gives a great performance in the Southwest Brewers Cup. The SW and NW barista competitions continue today and conclude tomorrow.
Tommy Kim gives a great performance in the Southwest Brewers Cup. The SW and NW barista competitions continue today and conclude tomorrow.

The demographic of baristas that attend Camp are mostly new to the industry and here to learn how to make better coffee, align their skills with the SCAA standards, and network with coffee people that they admire. Pairing that kind of fresh enthusiasm with performances from some of the best baristas in the region across the hall, has created an energy that is refreshing and inspiring to both the competitors and campers alike.

Julie Housh of Intelligentsia takes part in an exercise at Camp where participants were instructed to meditate on who their coffee heroes are.
Julie Housh of Intelligentsia takes part in an exercise at Camp where participants were instructed to meditate on who their coffee heroes are.

On one side of the hallway, we have classrooms while the other has stages. Competitors are constantly wheeling their carts piled high with performance gear carefully around the campers. Brewers cup compulsory round and finals wrapped up today, with Akash Siani of Kuma Coffee in Seattle taking the Northwest Brewers Cup title, and Sarah Anderson from Intelligentsia Los Angeles, being named the new Southwest Brewers Cup champ. Congratulations to you both, and we look forward to seeing you vie for the national title at the U.S. Coffee Championships in Long Beach, Calif., in February.

Blair of Augie's has nothing to be nervous about; she killed it in the SW Brewers Cup finals.
Blair of Augie’s has nothing to be nervous about; she killed it in the SW Brewers Cup finals.

Los Angeles coffee pros were representing HARD in for the Southwest region, with 3 of the 6 finals slots going to Intelli, Go Get Em’ Tiger (Jayme Lao), and Andante Coffee Roasters (Tommy Kim).

Let's give it up for the SW Brewers Cup champs!: 1st: Sarah Anderson, Intelligentsia Coffee, Los Angeles, CA; 2nd: Blair Smith, Augie's Coffee Roasters, Redlands, CA; 3rd: Ryan Fisher, Commonwealth Coffee, Denver, CO; 4th: Tommy Kim, Anadante Coffee Roasters, Los Angeles, CA; 5th: Jaymie Lao, Go Get  ˜em Tiger, Los Angeles, CA; 6th: Julian Giron, from Mc2, Monterey, CA.
Let’s give it up for the SW Brewers Cup champs!: 1st: Sarah Anderson, Intelligentsia Coffee, Los Angeles, CA;
2nd: Blair Smith, Augie’s Coffee Roasters, Redlands, CA; 3rd: Ryan Fisher, Commonwealth Coffee, Denver, CO; 4th: Tommy Kim, Andante Coffee Roasters, Los Angeles, CA; 5th: Jaymie Lao, Go Get ˜em Tiger, Los Angeles, CA; 6th: Julian Giron, from Mc2, Monterey, CA.

Being so wrapped up with Camp and popping into the competition as I could, I decided to start asking the attendees of both events how they were enjoying the combination of the two events. To my surprise every person I spoke with was thrilled to experience everything at the same time. Campers were using their limited free time to watch the competition, chat with competitors, taste coffee, and learn all about the Brewers Cup. Prior to this week, many of the camp attendees didn’t even know that the competitions even existed, so the reaction to the performances were mind-blowing to a lot of the baristas attending camp.

1st Akaash Saini, Morsel / Visions / Kuma Coffee, Seattle, WA 2nd Alexander Choppin, Olympia Coffee Roasting Company, Olympia, WA 3rd Ben Jones, Ristretto Roasters, Portland, OR 4th Kim Alexander, Tanager, Portland, OR 5th Davis Sears, Portland Roasting Company, Portland, OR 6th Brian Benavente, Black Cup Cafe Del Mundo, Anchorage, AK
1st Akaash Saini, Morsel / Visions / Kuma Coffee, Seattle, WA
2nd Alexander Choppin, Olympia Coffee Roasting Company, Olympia, WA
3rd Ben Jones, Ristretto Roasters, Portland, OR
4th Kim Alexander, Tanager, Portland, OR
5th Davis Sears, Portland Roasting Company, Portland, OR
6th Brian Benavente, Black Cup Cafe Del Mundo, Anchorage, AK

That said, that my favorite responses to the question of the success of two concurrent barista events came from the competitors and coffee pros who usually only attend the competitions, and don’t really know about the Barista Guild, and really have only ever signed up for memberships to get the competitor discount. These are the baristas that were the most blown away with Camp, the campers, and their commitment to coffee. I had one attendee of the competition say to me, œThe BGA and the SCAA are actually giving out legitimate information! I want those slides, you guys are really teaching great things here.  Not only are baristas who are new to specialty coffee learning from these competitors, but I believe the competitors, novices and veterans alike, are getting more inspired by the growing community of baristas and coffee professionals that are fostering better coffee through their own professional development.

Each one teach one ”specialty coffee is blowing up.

The real competition was the BGA corn hole contest.
The real competition was the BGA corn hole contest.
Portola, which was one of the hosts of the event, had plenty of staffers on hand to keep things moving and fun.
Portola, which was one of the hosts of the event, had plenty of staffers on hand to keep things moving and fun.
Look at these cute faces, in Palm Springs all the way from Seattle.
Look at these cute faces, in Palm Springs all the way from Seattle.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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Alexandra LittleJohn is a specialty-coffee industry veteran who currently works with Equator Coffee & Tea. She is based in Los Angeles, where she delights in drinking amazing coffee and some serious nail art.

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