The 11-episode season, premiering Wednesday, will see five competitors take part in multidisciplinary challenges for the chance to win a trip to Brazil.
BY CHRIS RYAN
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Images courtesy of The Barista League
The seemingly never-ending COVID-19 pandemic has continued to make in-person events a rarity in 2020, leading members of the specialty-coffee community to seek digital methods to stay connected.
Fortunately, another virtual venue arrives this week with the return of The Barista League: Online for Season II, offering a worldwide, remote coffee competition that will be filmed and released to the public as 11 fast-moving episodes. It’s the latest project from The Barista League, an event and marketing company established by Steven Moloney in 2015 focusing on the specialty-coffee community. After producing Season I this summer, The Barista League will debut the first episode of the new season on Wednesday, November 25, on The Barista League’s Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube pages.
During each week of the Season II competition, the five international baristas taking part—who will be announced in Wednesday’s premiere episode—will be given unique challenges to complete with VIP mentors and all-star judges. The multidisciplinary challenges—ranging from a Build-Your-Own Roaster showdown to a Guess the Processing challenge—will allow competitors to draw on their real-life coffee experience to gain points in each episode. They’ll be competing for a chance to win the grand prize of a trip to the Daterra Coffee Farm in Brazil. Serving as the host of The Barista League: Online Season II will be Cydni Patterson, a competitive barista and educator with Getchusomegear.
The Barista League team says viewers can expect Season II to have the feel of a reality TV show, compared to Season I’s coffee competition focus. For Season II they brought on script writer and producer Zanele Nyingwa, who brought a new perspective on how to make a video series fun and engaging. “In production, this meant thinking more about how our competitors’ personalities might complement each other on screen, planning a distinct narrative arc for each episode, and being much more deliberate about the kinds of footage we were asking for and how we would use it,” says Angela Ferrara, The Barista League’s communications director.
Angela says The Barista League team learned a great deal from Season I—a project they developed quickly to produce something for the coffee community soon after COVID-19 hit. The biggest lesson: The party-competition hybrid The Barista League has mastered for its in-person events is challenging to replicate in video form. “Coffee competitions aren’t inherently interesting to watch someone else take part in, but they have plenty of other perks when they’re hosted physically—a DJ playing dance music, a crowd to engage with, an entertaining emcee, and plenty of beer to drink,” Angela says. “When the event is virtual, the viewer’s only focus is the thing you are putting in front of them and if it isn’t entertaining, they can easily turn on Netflix or scroll to something else.”
After the experience of Season I, the team put even more effort into making each new episode entertaining and engaging for Season II viewers. “I definitely think that higher production values will make this season more fun to follow along and engage with for our audience,” says Angela.
In addition, The Barista League will be unveiling new ways of connecting people through the 11 Season II episodes. “We are also working on some side projects that are a bit more interactive, like weekly Facebook Watch Parties that encourage interaction between competitors, special guests, and viewers, and weekly giveaways where viewers will have the chance to win some of the coffee and equipment used in each episode,” Angela says. “We are really trying to identify the perks of IRL events—entertainment, networking opportunities, the chance of winning a prize—and make them happen virtually as often as possible.”
Angela says that now that The Barista League team has discovered the power of the virtual realm, they plan to continue to leverage it. “As we become aware of the ways we can use the digital platform to produce something fun, community-focused, and even more accessible and sustainable than ever before, we aren’t viewing these digital projects as placeholders, but, instead, as a new type of event that we will continue to produce indefinitely.”
The 11 episodes of Season II will air each Wednesday starting this week, save for a two-week holiday break, with the finale airing on February 17. Watch them starting tomorrow on The Barista League’s Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube pages.