Scenes From the Very First Glitter Cat Barista Bootcamp

With the inaugural Glitter Cat Barista Bootcamp wrapping up last week, we look back at some of the highlights and exciting moments of the training camp.


Photos by Kayla Phaneuf

“When I look back at this time a year ago, Glitter Cat was not even a blip on the radar,” says T. Ben Fischer. “Now, only a few days after the bootcamp, I cannot believe the support I got from the coffee community that allowed this bootcamp to get up and running.”

In less than a year, T. Ben founded and produced the very first Glitter Cat Barista Bootcamp, which promotes skill building in barista competitions for marginalized members of the coffee community. The first event, which took place over two days in Philadelphia this October, brought together 10 baristas at varying points in their competition careers—from seasoned competitors to newly interested baristas.

Baristas from all over the nation came together for Glitter Cat Barista Bootcamp to improve their barista skills and hone their competition know-how with seasoned professionals.

“The curriculum itself was incredibly transformative,” shares Emily Orendorff, a trainee and past barista competitor working at Boxcar Coffee in Colorado. “As someone that has competed before, I can say that if I knew some of the things we were taught this week previously for competition, I would have been a stronger competitor from the beginning. But so much of the magic of this was just purely the people. We were part of an inaugural group that is actively trying to change the faces of this competition.”

The idea for Glitter Cat started less than a year ago, and has now grown into a movement dedicated to uplifting baristas and highlighting issues of underrepresentation in coffee competitions.

Along with the trainees, the bootcamp invited experienced competitors and champions to impart wisdom and conduct classes. These folks included Laila Ghambari, the 2014 United States Barista Champion, Pete Licata, the 2013 World Barista Champion, and Erika Vonie, the 2017 Coffee Masters New York winner, and they covered topics like reading the rules, signature beverage development, and workshopping presentations.

The bootcamp was also a chance for the trainees to learn from each other. “Trainees and instructors alike shared stories of success, sorrow, difficult personal times, and joyous moments. As a group we laughed, shed tears, and analyzed scoresheets and flavor calls until our brains ached,” T. Ben shares. “Glitter Cat Barista Bootcamp is called a bootcamp for a reason: We worked our booties off, had very little sleep, partied at the Glitter Barista Championship, and bonded in ways none of us ever thought possible.”

The days were long for trainees—over two days, baristas tried dozens of coffees, worked on their presentations, and delivered flavor calls over and over to their peers.

As T. Ben mentioned, the culmination of the bootcamp was the Glitter Barista Championships, which paired trainees and local baristas in teams to compete in a series of barista tasks and tests. In the end, trainee Rodrigo Vargas and Philadelphia barista Kendra Sledzinski were declared the winners, earning a trip to the La Palma y El Tucan farm in Colombia. Later, the trainees found out that they had all received trips to La Palma y El Tucan.

T. Ben notes that the magic and success of Glitter Cat couldn’t have happened without the generosity of sponsors and volunteers. “I might be the only ‘employee’ of Glitter Cat, but this camp would not have been possible without the hard work of so many other people,” says T. Ben. “From Kelsey, our designer, to Eric, our editor, Pacific Foods Barista Series as our Presenting Sponsor, all of the other sponsors, and colleagues across the industry, Glitter Cat Barista Bootcamp is the culmination of a lot of advice and hard work from so many amazing people who all have a collective goal of helping improve representation and diversity on barista competition stages.”

You can see how Glitter Cat trainees do by following along with their journey as they compete in upcoming coffee competitions, and we look forward to meeting a new class of Glitter Cat trainees in the future!

Glitter Cat Barista Bootcamp will be back soon, and in the meantime, you can keep up with the trainees by following the upcoming U.S. CoffeeChamps competitions to be held in December and January.

About Ashley Rodriguez 413 Articles
Ashley is the Online Editor for Barista Magazine. She's based in Chicago. If you want to share a story or have a comment, you can reach her at