Glitter Cat Bootcamp Expands, Seeks Applicants for Upcoming Season

Following a successful debut season, the training program for coffee competitors from marginalized communities is seeking applicants for its bootcamps for four competitions.


Cover photo by Kayla Phaneuf

Last summer, T. Benjamin Fischer launched the Glitter Cat Barista Bootcamp, a training program for coffee competitors who identify as part of a marginalized community. The 10 selected participants attended a fall workshop in Philadelphia before going on to compete in the Barista event at the 2019 U.S. Coffee Championships (USCC), and the results were powerful: Four Glitter Cats and T. Benjamin advanced to the U.S. Barista Championship, with four making the semifinals and two earning spots in the finals.

The first Glitter Cat Barista Bootcamp class with instructors. Photo courtesy of Glitter Cat.

With its successful inaugural run in the books, Glitter Cat is back for the 2020 competition season—in expanded form: The training program will offer instruction not just in the Barista competition, but also in the Brewers Cup, Roasters, and Coffee in Good Spirits events. The bootcamps will take place in October and November (dates are below), with instruction from recent champions.

Glitter Cat will choose up to 10 applicants for each bootcamp—interested participants can apply through August 15 here. The bootcamps are for individuals from marginalized communities; a press release from Glitter Cat states, “This includes but is not limited to LGBTQIA+, womxn, racial/ethnic minorities, and persons with disabilities. These groups have been largely underrepresented in the top tiers of coffee competitions.”

2013 World Barista Champion Pete Licata leads a session during the first Glitter Cat Barista Bootcamp. Photo by Kayla Phaneuf.

T. Benjamin says that while it was very exciting to see the Glitter Cats’ success in the 2019 competition season, the group also formed a unique community. “This was the biggest win: having baristas from across the country have a system of support, friendship, and competition,” he says. “Even those who didn’t make it to U.S. (Barista Championship) are doing incredible things and having a tremendous impact on their local communities and the industry at large. I couldn’t have imagined how emotional and proud I would be from their successes outside of competition.”

According to T. Benjamin, one of the main inspirations for expanding Glitter Cat was the results of the 2019 U.S. Coffee Championships, in which a diverse group of competitors took the top spots. “Something incredible happened in Kansas City this year,” he says. “Five non cis white men won all of the competitions. The energy in the room when it kept going was something I’ll never forget. We were all screaming ourselves hoarse. It was a reason to keep that momentum going and use the framework we had established to make a bigger impact and also continue to acknowledge diversity and representation in these competitions as an ongoing issue.”

2017 Coffee Masters NYC champion Erika Vonie instructs Topher Ou during the first Glitter Cat Barista Bootcamp. Photo by Kayla Phaneuf.

T. Benjamin says that once he decided to expand Glitter Cat to four bootcamps, he was off and running: “I asked existing sponsors for additional financial support and spent all of (the 2019 SCA Expo in) Boston meeting with potential new sponsors and partners. … The budget I came up with was pretty high, but there was so much goodwill and excitement from sponsors that we have managed to meet it. I still can’t believe that we get to grow this much.”

The presenting sponsor for the 2020 Glitter Cat season is Pacific Barista Series, and the other top sponsors (known as Glitter Lion sponsors) are Rancilio and Atlas Coffee Importers. T. Benjamin says that Glitter Cat is still seeking additional sponsors; interested supporters can contact him here for more information and to receive a sponsorship packet. “We’re still taking on additional sponsors to give as many opportunities to this next cohort as possible, so please join our community!” T. Benjamin says.

2014 U.S. Barista Champion Laila Ghambari instructs the Glitter Cats. Photo by Kayla Phaneuf.

As for interested applicants wanting to be part of the 2020 Glitter Cat class, T. Benjamin says they’re seeking aspiring competitors with varying degrees of coffee experience for each bootcamp. “Being a Glitter Cat is so much more than acquiring the tools to do well in competition,” he says. “We’ll see the success of the program long after each cohort competes. We’ll see it in the way that it inspires each Cat to grow as a professional and take on new roles while keeping their glitter family close to them. What we saw this last year were folx who wanted to help each other beyond competition days. Apply to Glitter Cat because you want to do well in competition and you have something to say, but definitely apply to Glitter Cat because you want to feel part of something big and welcoming and loving. Glitter Cat is for you, whether you’re six years into the coffee industry or six months. As long as you’re willing to dive deep into this industry and make an impact, you belong!”

Interested applicants for Glitter Cat 2020 can throw their hat in the ring at Glitter Cat’s website; here are the details for each event:

Glitter Cat Roasters Bootcamp
October 25-26, 2019
Mill City Roasters in Minneapolis
2019 United States Roasters Champion Shelby Williamson and 2019 United States Cup Tasters Champion Jen Apodaca instructing.

Glitter Cat Barista Bootcamp
November 2-4, 2019
Dillanos Coffee Roasters in Sumner, Wash.
2019 United States Barista Champion Samantha Spillman instructing.

Glitter Cat Brewers Bootcamp
November 16-18, 2019
Workbench Coffee Labs in Kansas City, Mo.
2019 United States Brewers Cup Champion Kaley Gann of Messenger Coffee instructing.

Glitter Cat Coffee In Good Spirits Bootcamp
November 23-25, 2019
Kohi Coffee in Provincetown, Mass.
2019 Coffee In Good Spirits Champion Matt Foster instructing.

About Chris Ryan 263 Articles
Chris Ryan (he/him) is Barista Magazine's online copy editor and a freelance writer and editor with a background in the specialty coffee industry. He has been content director of Sustainable Harvest and the editor of Fresh Cup Magazine.