Scenes From the Second Annual Glitter Cat Barista Bootcamp

Aspiring barista competitors from the current Glitter Cat class learn from past champions at Dillanos Coffee Roasters.

BY ERIC GRIMM
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE

Cover photo by @chaiamericano

The second annual Glitter Cat Barista Bootcamp has passed, and with it, 10 more coffee professionals have taken in a wealth of knowledge about espresso theory and milk beverage preparation. Simultaneously, they’ve created a community that will empower them to present their most authentic selves on the stages of the United States Coffee Championships for the 2020 season.

Meet the members of this year’s Glitter Cat Barista Bootcamp. Photo by @thepourco.

Nerves and excitement filled the Glitter Cat corner of Dillanos Coffee Roasters’ headquarters in Sumner, Wash., on November 2-4 as the cats worked through their swag bags, which included customized Pullman tampers, bright pink limited-edition Slow Pour Supply pitchers, and Glitter Cat-etched Umeshiso cupping spoons, which have become a stirring symbol of breaking down barriers in professional coffee spaces. For most of the cats, it was an all-too-rare opportunity to be taken seriously in their passion and profession. “Many times, the things that make me my best self are the same reasons why people feel entitled to question my professionalism and skill,” said Glitter Cat Cydni Patterson. “This weekend was full of learning new habits and unlearning the idea that our identities have to be muted to be functional in this field.”

Glitter Cat Barista Bootcamp had a strong turnout of instructors like Laila Ghambari and Mike Strumpf (pictured). Photo by @chaiamericano.

Long instruction days had these eager cats diving deep into espresso theory with 2016 and 2019 U.S. Barista Champions Lem Butler and Sam Spillman, respectively. Milk beverage instruction was handled by world-class coach Holly Bastin and 2014 U.S. Barista Champion Laila Ghambari, who often had assistance from her newborn, Esme. World-certified head judge Mike Strumpf and 2013 World Barista Champion Pete Licata led presentation workshops with the cats, as they quickly propelled toward giving a qualifier-style eight-minute performance on the final day.

At night the cats looked to their future in competition and their careers. Atlas Coffee Importers held a Gender Action Learning System workshop at their headquarters in Seattle, where Chelsey Walker-Watson encouraged Glitter Cats to map out their personal and professional desires in conjunction with a gender equity initiative in producing countries. This group of baristas, strangers just two days before, cried and laughed as they shared their struggles and hopes for what they could accomplish.

Cydni and Eric during the Glitter Barista Championship. Photo by @thepourco.

The second evening had the cats team up for a wild, community-driven event at Visions Espresso. Presented by Rancilio, the season opening of the Glitter Barista Championship had bootcampers create signature beverages with a vast library of sweet and savory ingredients, which they also had to decorate themselves with as a spin on a white T-shirt contest. Glitter Cats Eli Cecil and Jake King emerged victorious in the final round, presenting espresso-drenched and marshmallow fluff-coated pepperoni that the judges wanted to keep eating.

On the final day, having attempted to synthesize months of training packed into two days, the 2020 Glitter Cat Baristas gave a glimpse of what they’ll show at the U.S. CoffeeChamps Qualifying Events in Sumner and Nashville, Tenn., this winter. Oodie Taliaferro moved the room with a call to make coffee and competition more accessible for those who have been historically shut out, while Nicole Henderson expressed a desire to show deaf baristas that competition is viable for them and that they belong on stage. All 10 cats showed commitment to sharing their stories and building the communities they’ve forged over coffee and glitter.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Eric J. Grimm counts 11 years in the coffee industry in New York City, where he has helped execute over 500 events as the catering manager of Joe Coffee Company and has held his tongue while making 1,000 flat whites. He has written about coffee in popular culture for Sprudge, is a retired theater critic, and once ghostwrote a savage Khloe Kardashian diss in an issue of Us Weekly.

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