Glitter Cat Barista Bootcamp, started by USBC runner-up T. Ben Fischer, aims to provide competition training to baristas in marginalized groups in an all-expenses paid retreat.
BY ASHLEY RODRIGUEZ
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Cover photo courtesy of Glitter Cat Barista
It’s no secret that barista competitions are expensive—just registering to compete can cost hundreds of dollars, and many baristas often have to shell out money from their own pockets to pay for things like dishes or rare coffees with experimental processes. In the last few years, there have been efforts to offset some of these costs; the United States Coffee Championships group introduced regional preliminary competitions, where baristas are provided with cups and wares and required to use sponsored coffee (registration fees usually cap at about $40), and both individuals and groups have offered sponsorship to baristas from marginalized groups, who are often the most affected by the high cost of competition.
And these are just the surface costs. As competitions have become more high-stakes, competitors with means are spending more money on training, hiring consultants from all over the world to help them configure their routines and polish their performances. These resources have proven to be effective—almost everyone at the world level has received some sort of professional training, and many competitors at this year’s United States Barista Championship (USBC) were coached by at least one world champion.
T. Ben Fischer wanted to change that. After placing second at this year’s USBC in Seattle in April, he wanted to share the resources he received with others. “I learned so much working with Holly [Bastin] and Pete [Licata], and I wanted to find a way to share what I learned with others,” he said. So he began brainstorming and came up with Glitter Cat Barista, an all-expenses-paid competition bootcamp. “Glitter Cat Barista Bootcamp (GCBB) is a barista training program focused on providing coaching to members of marginalized communities (LGBTQ+, women, racial/ethnic minorities, persons with disabilities) for the United States Barista Championship to increase representation and diversity on the national and international barista competition stages,” the website states.
Participants will spend two and a half days in Philadelphia October 23-25 working with a group of accomplished barista competitors—Laila Ghambari (2014 USBC champion), Lem Butler (2016 USBC champion and WBC finalist), Erika Vonie (2017 New York Coffee Masters Champion), and one of T. Ben’s former instructors, Pete Licata (2011 and 2013 USBC champion and 2013 WBC winner). In these workshops, participants will work on palate development, signature drink building, and presentation skills. Along with workshops, participants will also be invited to two networking panels, “Dinner and Discussion” and “Iron Barista Competition.”
To join, interested baristas must submit an application to be reviewed by a panel of judges (in full disclosure, I am one of the application judges) before September 4. In the application, baristas will answer questions like, “A YouTube video you made just reached 1,000,000 views—what was the video about,” and speak to their unique personality traits and skills. “Applicants should be committed to participating in the 2019 USBC Season, motivated, and ready to work hard (only cat naps allowed),” the website says. “Above all, applicants should be themselves.”
But why is it called Glitter Cat? T. Ben takes a lot of inspiration and motivation from his furry feline, Axel Cat, who occupies a space on the “Team” section of the website, and the website is scattered with fun quips and puns about cats.