As we get closer to the inaugural Glitter Cat Barista Bootcamp, we learn more about the first class of attendees.
BY ASHLEY RODRIGUEZ
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Photos courtesy of Glitter Cat Barista Bootcamp
Glitter Cat Barista Bootcamp is around the corner! More than 50 baristas applied to be part of the inaugural boot camp, which is aimed at providing assistance and coaching to barista competitors who identify as being part of a marginalized group. After hours of deliberation, the selection committee narrowed down the applicant pool to 10 people, who will participate in a two-day intensive competition workshop in Philadelphia next week.
For many of the participants, Glitter Cat provides a pathway to competition not available to them previously. “I never thought competing was an option for me because of insecurity, tremors in my hands, and a lack of knowledge,” said Kara Huckabee, a barista for Milan Coffee Works in Michigan. “I applied to Glitter Cat because I was excited about the opportunity to continue with my professional barista education and step into the competition world. … Glitter Cat seems like the perfect opportunity to grow and learn in a safe and welcoming environment.”
For others, the mission of Glitter Cat resonated with them in that it encourages more participation and representation from a diversity of groups. “I believe competitions are a platform to not only showcase delicious coffee drinks, but to also showcase the beautiful people that make up this industry,” notes David Palazuelos, who works for Presta Coffee Roasters in Tucson, Ariz. “More specifically, I believe that there’s a better future for this industry and for competitions where everyone from the various minority groups can be represented, supported, and loved authentically.”
Representation was important to all of the participants, with some noting that they don’t often see competitors, or even other coffee professionals, that look like them or inhabit similar identities. “I can say in my hometown I don’t know of any other female Native American baristas and at my coffee shop, and that I am the only one on staff,” shared Andrey Canyon, who works for Firecreek Coffee in Flagstaff, Ariz. “For me, feeling like I’m ‘the only one’ is alienating and as a person of color we are born with this feeling as it is almost inherent. … I want to be a part of that growing change where marginalized people within specialty coffee and competition grow a paradigm shift of representation so we can have a fair platform as any other person within the industry.”
“When applying I was thinking mostly of the fact that in the world stage Latin competitors don’t tend to get to the final rounds. This was a little discouraging for me in my early years as a barista in P.R.,” shares Rodrigo Vargas, who was displaced after Hurricane Maria and now lives in Pennsylvania. “It put me in a place where I thought my knowledge and the knowledge I could get wasn’t on the level of the world stage. … We need more people of different backgrounds to shine bright on the world stage.”
As the class of Glitter Cat baristas prepare for three days of intensive training from folks like 2013 World Barista Champion Pete Licata and 2014 U.S. Barista Champion Laila Ghambari, some are also looking to their cohort to pick up new ideas and exchange stories. “I hope to gain not only coffee knowledge, but also some great relationships with individuals that share a similar story and similar struggle in this industry,” says David. “It’s not easy to be marginalized and underrepresented, and I hope that the reality of that issue can sink in with those who are represented and un-marginalized.”
We’ll be checking in with the inaugural Glitter Cat class throughout this competition season—in the meantime, you can follow along on the Glitter Cat Instagram account. If you’re in Philadelphia, you can sign up for the Glitter Barista Championships, a fun and raucous competition for the public happening in tandem with the bootcamp at Elixr Coffee on October 24. And remember the slogan of Glitter Cat: less bitter, more glitter!