CoffeeChamps Qualifier in Nashville, Tenn., Showcases Diverse Competitors

Coffee professionals packed Track One from January 11-12 to experience spirited competitions and tasty exhibitors.


Photos by Jesse Lendzion

The U.S. Coffee Championships (USCC), and many of the country’s best and brightest coffee professionals, descended upon Nashville, Tenn., January 11–12, for the second of two qualifying events to determine competitors for the national showdowns—the United States Barista, Brewers Cup, Coffee In Good Spirits, Cup Tasters, and Roaster Championships—that will take place in February and April.

The crowd’s energy stayed strong throughout the routines, especially the one from Cyndi Patterson.

It wasn’t just about harrowing competitions, though. The event that unfolded at the Track One event space just south of downtown was filled with exhibitors, demos, the Barista Guild Café serving up tasty drinks, and lots of friendships forged and coffee family reunited.

The event spanned two floors of the building that shares a roof with a guitar shop, a deli, and more. The main room held the stages for the Barista, Roaster, and Cup Tasters competitions. The hundreds of attendees who packed the space from morning until night both days wandered past the Roaster Village and Marketplace areas checking out various booths housing well-known names such as Baratza, Acaia, and Rishi Tea, as well as local coffee shops Frothy Monkey, Barista Parlor, and numerous other vendors.

Glitter Cat Michelle “MiMo” Tran pours a drink that grants them second place for the Coffee In Good Spirits qualifying competition.

The Coffee In Good Spirits competition—located just a short walk down the hallway—and the Brewers Cup stage upstairs gave visitors a seemingly endless supply of events to watch, people to meet, and products to explore.

The atmosphere of genial community members sharing their mutual interests was starkly contrasted by the intense thunderstorm that kept everyone guessing if a train was passing by outside or if the tornado watch might have turned into a warning. But even though the ceiling sprung a few small leaks from the intense rain throughout the first day of competitions, the crowd was nothing but smiles.

Glitter Cat competitor Nicole Leigh Henderson takes the stage for the first time for the U.S. Barista Championship.

The Glitter Cat Bootcamp crew in particular kept the energy levels high as they supported and cheered for one another with great enthusiasm. Baristas hailing from marginalized groups had been selected to participate in Glitter Cat Bootcamps in the areas of Barista, Brewers Cup, Roaster, and Coffee In Good Spirits, and the results from their performances—many of them the competitors’ first trip to the mat—were outstanding. Another special feature of the Nashville event was the introduction of the USCC Latte Art Workshop Series, an effort spearheaded by Slow Pour Supply and Rancilio, which aimed to explore audience interest in bringing the Latte Art Championship back to the United States. For more information on this exciting project, check out the in-depth article we published recently at Barista Magazine Online.

The next set of competitions take place in Orange County, Calif., February 21-23. To view the full results from Nashville, click here.

Reigning U.S. Barista Champion Samantha Spillman delivers another winning performance, earning her the top spot for Nashville’s USBC qualifiers.
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Josh Rank
is a writer and coffee professional based in Nashville, Tenn. More ramblings can be found at his website.

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