Glitter Cat competitors showed what it means to “take up space” through this edition’s online competition.
BY JIYOON HAN
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Photos courtesy of Glitter Cat
Glitter Cat’s 2020 DiGiTiTiON came to a close late last month, crowning six Glitter Cat Champions. Of more than 120 applicants, 36 competitors were selected as finalists to showcase their talents online in competitions across six categories: Barista, Roasters, Brewers, Tasters, Coffee & Booze, and Latte Art. All competitors submitted a video recording of their routine, which was streamed on Instagram (@glittercatbarista) during 21 days of competition. These champions will be heading to an origin trip in Colombia when it is safe to travel again.
With the mission to change the face of the average coffee competitor, Glitter Cat in previous years has provided all-expenses-paid coffee competition training programs to members of marginalized communities for aspiring competitors to compete in the U.S. Coffee Championships. However, with the World Coffee Championships being cancelled this year due to COVID-19, Glitter Cat made a pivot and put on its first-ever DiGiTiTiON.
“Building community through competition is what makes Glitter Cat sparkle, and when we heard that U.S. Coffee Champs were canceled, I immediately said to Glitter Cat’s Director of Positive Outcomes, Eric Grimm, we’re doing a digital competition: The DiGiTiTiON,” says Chief Glitter Officer T. Ben Grimm. “The name was a joke at first,” say the Grimms, “but then it stuck around and here we are, DiGiCats in Glitter Land.”
Below we present the 2020 Glitter Cat DiGiTiTiON Champions:
Barista Champion Rebecca Lespier’s Flamin’ Hot Cheetos-rimmed signature drink combined coffee, almond milk, ube syrup, melted chocolate, and soy sauce. The drink was topped with a sparkly cat paw print. Rebecca redefines professionalism in this competition with her calming and zen-like performance; she says her happiest memories in coffee are while she’s training: “It’s amazing to see my co-workers light up.”
Through his roast “Color Outside The Lines,” Roasters Champion Tio Fallen celebrated Congressman John Lewis and the brave leaders who have served their country. Before starting his own coffee roasting business, Tio was a mechanical engineer and played the trumpet with marching bands.
Brewers Champion Neichelle Guidry, Ph.D., has never worked behind a coffee bar, but she is a lifelong coffee lover who brought coffee into her home when COVID-19 hit. Neichelle was the top scorer on the anonymously judged portion, surprising everyone. Neichelle’s routine made us feel warm and cozy at her home café.
Tasters Champion Kat Natividad earned a near-perfect score on a coffee triangulation and syrup and aromatic guessing game. Tasters was a crazy close race, with Kat calling time just two seconds quicker than the runner-up. Kat is a bio engineer-turned coffee professional.
Coffee & Booze
Coffee & Booze Champion Ziru Mo (AKA DiGiTiTiON’s main video editor) presented their Flamin’ Garden Mai Tai combining Boon Boona coffee, Appleton Estate rum, homemade orgeat and bitters, and a sugar cube garnish that was set on fire. Ziru, like their garnish, was on fire.
Latte Art Champion EC Fajardo’s Filipino flag-inspired signature pour was a nod of respect to his Filipino heritage. A little helping hand from his 5-year-old daughter charmed the judges. EC, whose happiest coffee moment was serving his coffee to Lem Butler (“and him liking it,” says Fajardo), is a hip-hop dance educator.
Glitter Cat organizers T. Ben and Eric Grimm plan to keep us in suspense for Glitter Cat DiGiTiTiON 2021. “The next year is going to be a major one for Glitter Cat! We want to continue the DiGiTiTiONs and make them even more accessible,” explains T. Ben. “We want to open up Glitter Cat labs, a co-working and training space in Los Angeles, and we want to find a way to get Glitter Cat to be more financially sustainable to be able to hopefully make running Glitter Cat our full-time jobs.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
A native New Yorker, Jiyoon Han is a Q Arabica Grader, Q Processing Generalist, and was a judge for the U.S. Coffee Championships 2019 Brewers Cup Prelims. As Chief Daughter at Bean & Bean Coffee in NYC, Jiyoon sources, roasts, and cups coffee. She’s a student at the Harvard Business School, where she is co-president of the Coffee & Tea Club.