SCAA Announces New Format for Barista Competitions – UPDATED

After an Ad Hoc Committee on Regional Barista Competitions meeting in Seattle last week, the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) announces a new format for Barista Competitions and Brewers Cup

(UPDATE: Lorenzo Perkins has address some of our concerns and questions. Please see end of post.)

A select group of coffee professionals were invited to participate in the Ad Hoc Committee on Regional Barista Competitions after the announcement by the SCAA that the regionals were canceled for the upcoming year created a backlash of criticism on the decision, the way it was made, and communicated. The SCAA apologized and announced the Ad Hoc Committee to consider the criticisms and find an appropriate way to meet the concerns of the coffee community.

The Ad Hoc Committee released the following letters today from Committee Chair Mike Strumpf and the Barista Guild of America Executive Council Chair Lorenzo Perkins explaining the decisions they’ve made for moving forward and the reasons for doing so. The letters are reprinted in full below:


Dear Coffee Community,

It was an honor and a pleasure to lead the Ad Hoc Committee on Regional Barista Competitions last weekend in Seattle. A variety of stakeholders donated their valuable time and put considerable effort into finding a solution for preserving the value of these events. We considered the contributions and suggestions made to us by the coffee community through email, social media, and a recent member survey. The survey, in particular, gave us important insights into what the community values about these events. In the end, I am confident that we found a productive way forward. We created a plan, which aims to increase the value and sustainability of regional barista qualifying competitions for years to come. Barista Guild Chair Lorenzo Perkins will elaborate on the plan below, but it is important to note that the strategy was achieved with a consensus of representatives of the Barista Guild of America Executive Council, SCAA Board of Directors, SCAA Competitions Committee, Barista Competitors, Brewers Cup Competitors, and Sponsors. I’m grateful for their work and proud of the outcome.


Mike Strumpf
Chair, Ad Hoc Regional Competitions Committee

Dear Baristas and Coffee Competitors,

We have an amazing opportunity before us to re-imagine what regional events look like, what it means to compete at the USBC, and how we present ourselves as a unified industry to the consumer. One of the most exciting outcomes of our meeting last weekend was a long-term vision for the future of regional coffee competitions as events. In order for these events to be sustainable in the long-term, they need to fulfill the mission of both the SCAA, to recognize, develop, and promote specialty coffee, and the BGA, to provide baristas with a community dedicated to innovating, sharing, and demonstrating best practices in coffee preparation.

We want to re-frame these competitions as craft food events, emphasizing the crafted nature of specialty coffee and showcasing the skills of coffee professionals as practitioners of their craft, and at the same time advocate for specialty coffee at the consumer level. We envision much more consumer-friendly regional events that are inviting and accessible to specialty coffee consumers, by placing an emphasis on sensory experience, demonstrations, and sampling.

There were also a lot of questions around what else the BGA was working on to add to regional coffee activity. For the last 3 months, we have been working on establishing a separate and new kind of barista professionals’ event, dedicated to industry-facing interaction and networking, providing an expanded opportunity for growth and development seen in regional coffee professional activity. We feel strongly that this new vision is what the coffee community is asking for in order to continue to develop as coffee professionals, and at the same time advocating for specialty coffee at the consumer level.

The 2015-2016 competition season will have to be a building year towards that vision. Given the realities we’re facing, we came up with the following vision:

-We will hold one qualifying event in late winter in the geographic center of the country, which 100 competing baristas can attend. The event will last 4 days.

-The top 6 barista competitors from the Western Conference and the top 6 from the Eastern Conference will be determined. Each of these 12 will automatically advance to USBC semi-finals.

-The 24 remaining highest scoring baristas from the entire country will advance to the initial round of the USBC.

-The regional barista qualifying competition will be a condensed version of the full USBC. We envision 2 espressos, 2 milk based drinks, and 2 signature drinks served to 2 sensory judges with 2 technical judges and 1 head judge. There will be a 20 minute practice period, a prep time of 10 minutes and performance time of 10 minutes. The competitions committee will update scoring sheets and rules documents accordingly.

-Brewers Cup will be open to 50 competitors and include both compulsory and open service for all competitors.

-The top 6 Brewers Cup competitors from the Western Conference and the top 6 from the Eastern Conference will be determined. Each of these 12 will automatically advance to US Brewers Cup.

-The 24 remaining highest scoring brewers from the entire country will advance to the initial round of the USBrC.

We will communicate updated rules, dates for the qualifying event, and other information as we get it.

Last, I want to thank the members of the ad hoc committee, the Barista Guild Executive Council, and every member of the specialty coffee community who contributed their ideas and made their voice heard in this process.


Lorenzo Perkins
Chair, Barista Guild of America Executive Council

To be honest, though some of the concerns of canceling regionals are addressed in the new format announced above, the decisions made also seem to raise a whole new set of questions for us. For example do competitors still need to be BGA-certified? What is the cost to compete? What are the Eastern and Western Conferences? Why is there a new format for the “regional” which does not match the USBC or WBC model? Is competing in this new competition a prerequisite for competing in the USBC?

We’re sure you have more questions and concerns too. We’ll let you know as we learn more.

Those are all fantastic questions. There is no certificate requirement. There will be the same member/non-member price structure as in previous years. It’s my understanding the exact cost is still up in the air. Since there is only one venue, it doesn’t have to occur over the weekend, and a host of other factors the cost to produce the event for both the SCAA and sponsors is on an entirely different model than in previous competition cycles. SCAA Staff is working through those kinds of details right now and we should have that answer shortly. The division between East and West was to ensure a geographic diversity in participation and representation at the qualifying events and at the USBC this spring. The Competitions Committee has yet to determine how East and West will be defined other than one side of the country and the other side of the country, but I know that group is already working towards that, as well as updating the Rules and Regulations for the changes in format.

Lorenzo Perkins
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