The tasting competition connects you to coffee friends and leaders across the globe.
BY KATRINA YENTCH
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Photos courtesy of LEADERBOARD: The Coffee Game
Although some approved vaccines are slowly making their way through a small portion of the globe, the future of coffee events IRL in 2021 is uncertain. From The Barista League: Online to Glitter Cat’s DiGiTiTiON, we’ve watched our colleagues and friends find ways to keep the spirit of coffee competitions alive. The hope stays strong with LEADERBOARD: The Coffee Game.
Culture Coffee Project’s Grant Gamble and Suneal Pabari of The Roasters Pack/Matchmaker Coffee have merged their combined backgrounds of coffee events and subscription services to create LEADERBOARD. The coffee game is a Cup Tasters-esque competition with four seasons/rounds throughout 2021. Each round, players will blind taste their way through 10 different coffees (each one is a 60-gram bag) to identify each one’s origin. Players will also have the option of making this a single-user or multi-player experience, which LEADERBOARD has demonstrated with fun video game-type visuals throughout the site. “We have branded the entire experience as an arcade game to make it feel approachable and fun,” explains Grant. “Diving deep into the world of coffee can be intimidating, and we want to ensure that people who are just curious about it feel comfortable playing the game.”
For this competition however, players also have access to coaching videos from some stellar coffee people, who will be giving out different lessons on how to identify these coffees. For example, one lesson will cover how to identify a processing method, and another on how to score coffees. Some coaches you’ll get to meet are:
- Lem Butler, co-founder of Black & White Roasters in North Carolina, U.S.A. 2016 U.S. Barista Champion.
- Ben Put, co-founder of Monogram Coffee Roasters in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Three-time World Barista Championship finalist.
- Kay Pest, co-founder of JAVA Coffee Roasters in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Current Canadian Cup Tasters Champion and 2016 Polish Cup Tasters Champion.
- Phyllis Johnson, co-founder of BD Imports in Georgia, U.S.A., and president of the Coffee Coalition for Racial Equality.
- Ply Pasarj, co-owner of Rogue Wave Coffee in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Current Canadian Brewers Cup and AeroPress Champion.
For a full list of coaches (who will change with each season), head here.
“With our coaches’ videos associated with each question, we’re trying to democratize coffee education,” explains Suneal. “Turn it from a one-to-one relationship with these amazing professionals, to a one-to-many relationship. The coaches’ videos will also be available to anyone—regardless of whether or not they’re participating in LEADERBOARD.”
If you aren’t starstruck yet by the coach lineup, or the fact that you’re getting over a pound of coffee with each shipment, you’ll probably be eager to compete after checking out this prize list. In addition to getting discounts on coffee equipment from Eight Ounce Coffee, players have the chance at winning over $1,000 worth of swag. The top five winners receive the following:
- First place – $1,200 value: $500 package from Eight Ounce Coffee, Flair NEO Espresso Maker, Baratza Encore, Varia Multi Brewer, six-month subscription to The Roasters Pack
- Second place – $475 value: $300 package from Eight Ounce Coffee, Origami Dripper, three-month subscription to The Roasters Pack
- Third place – $250 value: $150 package from Eight Ounce Coffee, three-month subscription to The Roasters Pack
- Fourth place – $30 value: One-month subscription to The Roasters Pack
- Fifth place – $30 value: One-month Subscription to The Roasters Pack
If you think you have what it takes (or not—you can still participate but not compete), signups for Season 1 end January 15, and answers are due on February 28.
If you’re unable to make it for this season, you have the opportunity to sign up again for each new launch, as well as register for a scholarship if you don’t have the funds to participate. “We select recipients based on a number of factors—most importantly is that playing the game and learning from the experience would help them in their coffee career,” says Grant. At no matter what point you enter the competition, we hope you get a chance to start the year strong with LEADERBOARD. It could very well be a way to prepare for the next IRL coffee competition, too.