U.S. Latte Art Championship Canceled for 2016; Cup Tasters to Take Place at Good Food Awards

SCAA announces the cancelation of the U.S. Latte Art Championship  in 2016, location for U.S. Cup Tasters

BY SARAH ALLEN
BARISTA MAGAZINE

We were very disappointed to hear this morning that the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA)  has canceled the United States Latte Art Championship this year. In addition, it announced that the U.S. Cup Tasters Championship will take place in conjunction with the Good Food Awards in San Francisco just over one month from now. The SCAA’s reason for canceling the U.S. Latte Art Championship is “low participation” in the two years it has taken place. But don’t all coffee contests take a little while to build? The first U.S. Barista Championship only had a handful of participants, for example, but with the contest taking place consistently year after year, excitement, momentum, and participation built. As for the U.S. Cup Tasters Championship, announcing now, on December 7, that it will take place in San Francisco in just over a month,  seems almost like an afterthought.

Everything has been a little topsy turvy since the announcement by the SCAA about the cancelation of regional barista competitions. Factor into this the announcement that the World Latte Art Championship and  the World Cup Tasters Championship will take place  extremely early ”March 31 “April 1 in Shanghai at HOTELEX, and there was going to be some necessary scrambling this year.

Still, doesn’t it make the most sense to hold the U.S. Latte Art Championship and the U.S. Cup Tasters Championship at the USBC Qualifying Event that the SCAA has scheduled for February 2 “5 in Kansas City?

Here’s a scenario, based on reigning U.S. Barista Champion and World Barista Championship runner-up Charles Babinski: Charles loves competing, and he loves  how different coffee competitions stretch and challenge his skill sets in different ways. For this reason, he has competed in all of them in the past ”and it’s been easy enough to do so. Usually, the U.S. Coffee Championships geared toward baristas ”Latte Art, Barista, and Cup Tasters ”have taken place in the same venue.

U.S. Latte Art Championship Canceled for 2016; Cup Tasters to Take Place at Good Food Awards
Charles Babinski hoisting his USBC 2015 first-place trophy high and proud.

I maintain that 2015 was a golden year: The Bigs ”i.e. the Big Western, Big Central, and Big Eastern, between which six regional barista competitions took place throughout the country ”were professional and fantastic, pretty much universally loved and applauded by the U.S. barista community. What made 2015 magical, however, was the stand-alone U.S. Coffee Championships that took place in Long Beach in February of that year. As such, the competitions had the prominence and importance that the competitors so richly earned.

Back to Charles: Say he or someone like him ”someone who likes to do all the competitions ”wants to do it again this year. He has to buy a plane ticket and pay hotel and food expenses, not to mention lost wages, for the Kansas City USBC Qualifying Event. Then he has to decide right now whether he can compete ”can afford to compete ”in the U.S. Cup Tasters Championship. Why the urgency? Registration opens tomorrow. So that’s another plane ticket, and more hotel, food, and lost wages. As for the U.S. Latte Art Championship? Just forget about it.

I’m so bummed about all of this! I feel like we’re taking big steps backwards, and backwards from a place of real success. But that’s the news.

If you want to read the SCAA’s statement, I’m pasting it below.

Dear Member,  

Planning for the  U.S. Coffee Championships  (USCC) is well underway and we are looking forward to a great event at  The SCAA Expo  in Atlanta, GA this spring! The USCC Arena will once again be the center of activity for the U.S. Barista Championship, U.S. Brewers Cup, and the newly coined U.S. Roaster Championship (formerly the Roasters Choice Competition). We have some important details to share regarding several of the U.S. Championships. Please review the information below and as always, let us know if you have any questions!  

Firstly, the 2016  U.S. Cup Tasters Championship  will not take place at the SCAA Expo due to the timing of the World Cup Tasters Championship, which is taking place March 29 “ April 1 in Shanghai, China, but rather it will be held on Saturday, January 16 through Sunday, January 17 in conjunction with the  Good Food Awards  in San Francisco, CA. This will be an exciting event that provides great exposure for U.S. Cup Taster Championship competitors. Registration for the U.S. Cup Tasters Championship will open tomorrow,  Tuesday, December 8, at 9am PST.  

Additionally, we wanted to inform you that the  U.S. Latte Art Championship  has been placed on temporary hold for the 2016 competition season due to low participation. A working group has been formed within the Barista Guild of America and SCAA’s Competition Committee in order to envision how to move this Championship forward and grow value for competitors. Patrick Burns of Palace Coffee will be leading the charge on this effort. If you are interested in being a part of this working group, please contact  competitions@scaa.org.  

Lastly, as we noted above, the  U.S. Roaster Championship  will be held at The SCAA Expo in April 2016. This competition is designed to highlight the art and craft of coffee roasting. Forty Roasters Guild members may submit two roasted coffees to represent and highlight their roasting skills. A green coffee sponsor will provide the green coffee for the First Round on Friday, and attendees will be able to blind sample the top twelve coffees and cast their vote. The second submission will be evaluated if the competitor advances to the Final Round, and this submission can be of any green coffee of their choosing. On Saturday, attendees will be able to blind sample the top six finalists and vote to help determine who will win the 2016 Roaster Championship. On Sunday, the competitors will be available to showcase their submissions, and the winner will be announced at the end of the day on Sunday. The roasted coffee that earns the top score, as determined by a panel of judges and attendee votes, will be named the winner of the 2016 Roaster Championship.  

More information is available on the  U.S. Coffee Championships website  with regards to rules and regulations, schedules and event information. Competitor information will be available early next year.  

We hope to see you in January for the U.S. Cup Tasters Championship in San Francisco, CA and at The SCAA Expo in Atlanta, GA!  

Best regards,  

Jess Steffy  
Competitions Committee Chair

 

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