What’s Your Reopening Plan?—The Barista League

A night time image of the bottom half of a person. The Barista League is in a yellow neon sign.

As we attempt to move forward from COVID-19, we ask Steven Moloney how The Barista League will be managing this task.


Images courtesy of The Barista League

As many countries throughout the world begin to implement vaccine distribution plans, we can’t help but wonder what that means for coffee—an industry whose businesses have taken some of the most cautious stances on COVID-19 safety and limitations. Does a vaccine mean the end of the pandemic and a return to normalcy is here? It’s likely not, but a vaccine is a positive step in the direction of bringing people together once again. In this new series, we’re asking several styles of coffee businesses what their thoughts were about resuming operations.

Today, we feature a chat with Steven Moloney (he/him) of The Barista League, an event series whose in-person activities have completely halted since their last throwdown in the winter of 2020. During this time, however, the group has been able to define what it means to host a truly accessible event, creating notable online content like The Barista League: Online via YouTube, as well as a recorded online conference with speakers all over the globe.

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Does looking at a n event like this make you yearn for the old days? Us too. The Barista League is looking forward to potentially hosting these again toward the end of the year.

Barista Magazine: When are you thinking of beginning to have events in-person again, and what kinds of criteria are you looking for to feel safe hosting?

Steven Moloney: We are hoping for some physical events by the end of this year. Our events are relatively flexible in how we deliver them, so while we are confident in being able to deliver them safely, we are extremely beholden to local regulations and travel restrictions, as well as the restrictions of our partners and event sponsors. This last point is perhaps something that no one wants to talk about super openly, but events don’t organize themselves—without the support of partners they are, put plainly, financially impossible. So we are not just waiting for the regulations to ease up, but also for companies to be prepared to start investing in live events again. Luckily this feels like it is on the way.

In terms of hosting safe events, there seem to be some standard and obvious measures to take to increase the safety of participants and reduce the risk for any communal spread of illnesses (hand washing, sanitizing stations, masks), but we are looking forward to finding creative ways to adapt the event to remove problematic areas altogether (see: crowding around a small cupping table and sharing germs) and instead make it an asset for the experience.

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The Barista League: Online has been one of several pieces of online content that the group has created during the pandemic.

What are a couple of ways you hosted events in the past that you want to restructure in a post-pandemic world?

To be blunt, not a lot. We have had strong convictions about our industry events not living up to their potential for accessibility or sustainability, and the COVID pandemic has only solidified those convictions. One of our core missions is to consider the experience of EVERY person who attends our events and deliver an amazing experience for all. You simply aren’t doing that if the event is priced at a full week’s salary, or if they need to invest thousands of dollars to even have a shot at placing in a barista competition. We have learnt so much this past year about HOW to better deliver accessible and sustainable events and content, but our core mission remains as it was prior to the pandemic. We are so excited that more and more attention is being spent on making events more sustainable and safe for the community and the environment.

What are you most looking forward to when returning to The Barista League live?

While we have been trying to produce fun events and experiences digitally, most of our attendees are still experiencing it from their couch or homes while in lockdown—and it’s really hard to create a shared experience for an audience when you can’t influence someone’s surroundings at all. So being able to manage that full sensory experience, from how you enter to the music you hear when you arrive, to the taste of the drinks or coffee to the smiling faces around you, we can’t wait to be able to start connecting face-to-face with people again.

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.