Competition, Cold, and More from the 2024 U.S. Coffee Competition Qualifiers in Houston


Photos courtesy of U.S. CoffeeChamps

The first round of qualifiers for the 2024 season of the United States Coffee Competitions took place January 16-19 at The Power Center in Houston, featuring the U.S. Barista, U.S. Cup Tasters, and U.S. Roasters qualifying competitions. Despite Houston facing an uncommon deep freeze caused by a nationwide Arctic blast, which disrupted flights and created a cold week in Texas, industry leaders, volunteers, and competitors worked together to host an inspiring qualifying competition.

Despite COVID outbreaks and a rare deep freeze, organizers and competitors joined forces for a memorable qualifying event January 16-19 in Houston.

The Community Comes Together

The event boasted a strong presence from coffee community leaders, including Houston-based Anita Tam of Slow Pour Supply, who assumed the role of U.S. Competitions Coordinator. Former U.S. Barista Champions Isaiah Sheese, Morgan Eckroth, Andrea Allen, Lem Butler, and Kyle Ramage were all actively involved: Lem and Isaiah served as emcees, Morgan returned to compete, Andrea supported Morgan with the Onyx Coffee Lab team, and Kyle assisted numerous competitors from Black & White Coffee Roasters and beyond.

In the Barista competition, creative setups like Reyna Callejo’s light-up boxes and Morgan Eckroth’s moss-covered scene captivated spectators. However, the introduction of new sponsored grinding equipment introduced technical issues that led some competitors to exceed their allotted time, with only half a point separating the qualifiers.

In the Cup Tasters competition, 11 participants successfully identified all six triangulations, with Tony Auger securing the top spot in an impressive 1 minute and 14.19 seconds.

Meanwhile, Wenbo Yang emerged victorious in the Roasters competition, adding to an already impressive resume; he was the 2023 U.S. Brewers Cup Champion and the 2023 U.S. Latte Art Championship runner-up.

The sponsors of the 2024 USCC qualifiers in Houston.

Overcoming Obstacles

Despite thorough preparation and travel to Houston, Barista competitor Addison Mathis, who placed first in the preliminary competition in Raleigh, N.C., was unable to compete due to a COVID outbreak, raising concerns about safety measures for future competitions. Additionally, the absence of masks among judges and attendees prompted further safety discussions during the competition, which took place amid the second-largest COVID surge in the U.S. since 2020.

The 2024 U.S. Coffee Championships qualifiers in Houston not only showcased the resilience and dedication of participants but also highlighted the unwavering support and solidarity within the coffee community. The stage is set for an exciting display of talent and camaraderie as qualifying competitors prepare to compete for the national title in their respective events.

Full Results and What’s to Come

Looking forward, the final two U.S. CoffeeChamps qualifying events for the season will take place February 1-4 at AMP by Strathmore in Bethesda, Md., for Brewers Cup and Latte Art, and February 2-4 at Counter Culture Coffee in Washington, D.C., for Coffee in Good Spirits.

For competitors advancing from the Houston event, the U.S. Barista Championship and U.S. Cup Tasters Championship will be held at Klatch Coffee in Rancho Cucamonga, California, March 15-17. The U.S. Roasters Championship will take place April 11-14 in Chicago, in conjunction with the Specialty Coffee Expo.

The following Houston competitors advanced to the three national championships:


Morgan Eckroth’s setup incorporated a naturalistic moss theme.
  1. Morgan Eckroth, Onyx Coffee Lab – Portland, Ore.
  2. Kay Cheon, Dune Coffee – Santa Barbara, Calif.
  3. Reyna Callejo, Olympia Coffee – Seattle
  4. Reef Bessette, The Coffee Movement – San Francisco
  5. David Ellis, Oh Oh Coffee – Aurora, Colo.
  6. Jake McFarland, Black & White Coffee Roasters – Raleigh, N.C.
  7. Jason Yeo, Saint Frank Coffee – San Francisco
  8. Arturo Mandujano Jr., MoonGoat Coffee Roasters – Costa Mesa, Calif.
  9. Rafael Levy Diner, Onyx Coffee Lab – Rogers, Ark.
  10. Jamie Patel, Counter Culture Coffee – Durham, N.C.
  11. Noel Goodwin, Hagen Coffee Roasters – Seattle
  12. Seidy Selvanow, Kafiex Roasters – Vancouver, Wash.
  13. Gavy Oesmoto, Eyes Peeled Coffee – Los Angeles
  14. Frank La, Be Bright Coffee – Los Angeles
  15. Meg Skop, The Coffee Movement – San Francisco
  16. Dakota Graff, Onyx Coffee Lab – Rogers, Ark.
  17. Jeremy Bennet, Bennett’s Coffee Co. – Rockville, Md.
  18. Hugo Cano, Amberson Coffee – Indianapolis
  19. Jinwoo Ahn, Cafe Grumpy – Brooklyn, N.Y.
  20. Anthony Ragler, Black & White Coffee Roasters – Raleigh, N.C.
  21. Lynn Hrabovsky, Cosmic Bloom Coffee – Vista, Calif.
  22. Phillip White, Independent – Los Angeles
  23. Gray Kaufman, Independent  – Seattle
  24. Miranda Haney, Barista Friend – Austin, Texas


Sergei Kutrovski from Narrative Coffee at the Cup Tasters qualifier.
  1. Tony Auger, Goshen Coffee
  2. Helen Choi, Luce Coffee Roasters
  3. Tom Bomford, Black Fox Coffee
  4. Konoka Hattori, Onyx Coffee Lab
  5. Ryan Sullivan, Mostra Coffee
  6. Kimberly Zash, Sightseer Coffee
  7. Inwook Park, FairWave Coffee Collective
  8. Brittany Gross, Speedwell Coffee
  9. Luke Jung, Luce Coffee Roasters
  10. Ashleigh Chrisena Ricci, Tipico Coffee
  11. Mehmet Sogan, Memli Coffee
  12. Steve Cuevas, Independent
  13. Jie Jang, Less and More Coffee
  14. Samuel Demisse, Keffa Coffee
  15. Sergei Kutrovski, Narrative Coffee
  16. Bear Soliven, Onyx Coffee Lab
  17. Josh Neibert, Keffa Coffee
  18. Sean Coyne, Brio Coffeeworks
  19. Elli Kang, Pave
  20. Daniel Borras, Perc Coffee
  21. Hyacinth Rios, Coffee Project NY
  22. Kenzel Fallen, Three Keys Coffee
  23. Kimhak Em, Pair Cupworks
  24. Michael Matthews, Alinea Coffee Roasters/BearCat


  1. Wenbo Yang
  2. Tio Fallen
  3. Hyo Jung Kim
  4. Tony Auger
  5. Michael Matthews
  6. Brian Hensley
  7. Eduardo Choza
  8. Alix Nathan
  9. Eric Stone
  10. Steve Cuevas
  11. Kimhak Em
  12. Alex Huang
  13. Matthew Selivanow
  14. Dana Borque
  15. Mark Kove
  16. Zachary Steele

This information is provided as listed from the comprehensive list of scores on the U.S. Coffee Champs website.


Kate Van Petten (they/them) is a writer, musician, and coffee professional based in Seattle. They have worked in the specialty-coffee industry for years with a focus on creative storytelling through marketing. You can find their songs and poems in Coffee People Zine, and you can listen to their debut audiobook, For Someone, on cassette tape or online via Hello America Stereo Cassette. They are currently an editor and publicist for Poetry Northwest, the Pacific Northwest’s longest-running literary journal. If you want to share a story or connect, you can reach them at

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