The Barista League USA Tour Debuts in Portland

The much-anticipated arrival of Scandinavia’s beloved team competition and community celebration touches down Stateside.


After more than a year of planning, plotting, and producing, the renowned coffee competition event The Barista League (TBL) hit the United States on Thursday night with a rollicking evening of fun contests and one helluva party. Created by Steve Moloney, himself an Aussie living in Sweden, and a two-time Swedish Barista Champion, TBL is designed to be the exact opposite of the formal, often expensive, and stressful traditional barista competitions. It instead prides itself on being inclusive and free, festive and fun, and still full of the same great people—not to mention prizes—for which the coffee-competition circuit is known.

Last night, TBL took over the vast space belonging to Alex Lambert and Jason “Double J” Johnson of Black Rabbit Service Co., to host the first stop on TBL’s four-city USA tour. The fun continues on Saturday in Kansas City, Mo.; on September 6 in Greenville, S.C.; and concludes on September 8 in Philadelphia. Among the amazing prizes such as custom ceramics from Loveramics, Baratza grinders, swag and coffee from some of Scandinavia’s most legendary roasters, and more, is a trip for the overall winning team to Colombia in October courtesy of Ally Coffee. This top two-person team will join the famed Ally Coffee Champs trip with United States superstar Barista, Brewers Cup, Roaster, and Cup Tasters champions and runners-up, along with World Barista Champion Agnieszka Rojewska and other special guests.

Here are photos of some of the evening’s highlights. Be sure to check back in the coming week for previews and recaps of all the stops on the Barista League’s USA Tour.

Emcee Sara Jessica Reynolds kept the crowd informed about each team’s passage through three rounds of competition.
Portlanders such as Lauren Lathrop at right were joined by loads of folks who came in from as far as Arkansas, Colorado, California, Washington, and Canada.
Team No Filter presented cappuccinos to the judges in Round 1. Teams used coffee provided by Onyx Coffee Lab.
Thank you, judges! The three esteemed judges for the Portland leg of the Barista League tour included, from left, Ian Williams of Deadstock Coffee in Portland, Laila Ghambari of Stumptown Coffee in Portland, and Elle Jensen of Amethyst Coffee in Denver.
Team Elevator cruised through Round 2, which was a sensory cupping of different flavors from the SCA coffee wheel cleverly disguised by food coloring.
Team Light Brite’s Natan and Laura took a moment’s rest for a photo.
Team Coffee Pals were focused despite the hubbub around them as they prepared Round 1 caps for the judges.
Team Tarbus and Wilbo were the first reserve team on the waiting list, and they were ready to go when called to compete on the fly.
Check out this line-up of amazing prizes!
Team Pitcher Perfect hailed from Portland’s Proud Mary Coffee.
2018 U.S. Cup Tasters Champ Ken and his partner Elisabeth drove from Seattle to participate in the event.
Winner for cutest smile (I made that up) was Lance and Maxwell, who made up Team Bloom Squad, with Lance traveling from Arkansas to compete with Maxwell, who hails from Washington.
Poursteady CEO Stephan von Muehlen poses with the equipment he’s famous for, which was the centerpiece of the third round, a mystery to the competitors until competition began.
In the end, it was that team from the reserve list, Team Tarbus and Wilbo, who were the big winners. Here they are re-creating their prom photo.
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