The Barista League Lands in Los Angeles This Week

The easygoing international competition series arrives in L.A. to kick off Coffee Fest.


Photos courtesy of The Barista League

On Saturday, August 24, The Barista League is heading to Los Angeles for the first time ever as their third stop this year, and this one arrives as a warmup to the City of Angels’ upcoming Coffee Fest (August 25-27)! As their only U.S. tour date in 2019, this is one that can’t be missed—especially since the gang promises a smoke machine will be there for “a night of competition chaos.”

The California flag’s bear serves as an appropriately caffeinated figure for this edition of The Barista League, which takes place the night before Coffee Fest L.A. gets underway.

Hailing from Europe, The Barista League is an international, stress-free competition force that serves to connect the coffee community, and their Los Angeles date has a packed itinerary of fun. The roster of attendees includes a “coffee all-star lineup”; The Chocolate Barista’s Michelle Johnson is scheduled to hold it down on the mic as MC for the evening, and judges include G&B’s Charles Babinski, Umeko Motoyoshi of Umeshiso, and Ikawa Coffee’s O.M. Miles. They’re kicking off the festivities in Black Rabbit Service Co.’s sparkling new facilities in Lincoln Heights, and the $5 entry fee will go toward Grounds for Health, an organization providing reproductive health care for women in coffee-growing countries.

The last competition The Barista League hosted was in Zagreb, Croatia. The L.A. competition format is going to have a very similar structure, but with a few twists.

The competition format takes a similar structure to the previous stop in Zagreb, Croatia, with 12 teams participating in three rounds that include Barista Skills, a Sensory Round, and the notorious Mystery Round, which has previously included a multitude of shenanigans like being bound by handcuffs and grinding coffee with hammers. In Round 1, teams will have 10 minutes to make four superb drinks (two espresso beverages, one made with Pacific Barista Series alternative milks, and one “wild card” drink determined by a spinning color wheel) with Intelligentsia Coffee on a Rancilio Specialty RS1 espresso machine. At the same time, however, they’ll be sample roasting a coffee on an Ikawa Pro V3 sample roaster. Teams will also be using fun gadgets like Puqpress tampers, Acaia scales, and Compak PK3 espresso grinders.

The last installment of The Barista League featured a challenge in which contestants experienced five misleadingly colored infusions of flavors all found on the Specialty Coffee Association flavor wheel!

In the Sensory Round, teams will have five minutes to match five coffees to their countries of origin, in which Onyx Coffee Lab beans and the Wilbur Curtis Gold Cup Brewer will be utilized. The Mystery Round has still yet to be uncovered, but hint: a lot of cups will be involved!

During this time, a brew bar will be on site for attendees to use the same equipment as the competitors, giving them a chance to play on some high-end gear and win prizes, too. The winning team, however, will move on to the final round of the year, which lands in Seoul for the first time ever! The Barista League says it’s a “Choose-Your-Own-Adventure”-type structure where finalists will get to format the agenda. Details will follow after this Los Angeles adventure.

Sign-ups for the L.A. stop are already full, but general admission tickets are still flowing. The Barista League kicks off at 5:30 p.m. on August 24 with plenty of beer, food, and good times ahead.

About Katrina Yentch 221 Articles
Katrina Yentch (she/her) is a freelance writer and Barista Magazine's Online Editor. When she's not writing, you can find her napping, cooking, and drinking whatever's on drip.