Prequalification rules for U.S. baristas seeking the World Barista title were significantly altered by the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA), a controversial decision that drew fire from baristas and sponsors alike.
“The cessation of regional competitions in no way represents an end to regionally focused barista events – rather a refocus on how best to allocate association funds to best serve the barista community,” according to SCAA which described the current system as unsustainable long term.
Tracy Allen, president of the SCAA Board of Directors, five days later apologized for the way the announcement was handled. “While we felt we had made the best decision on behalf of the entire membership, the barista community amplified what the Barista Guild of America Executive Council (BGAED) had been saying… that these events are valuable beyond measure and there may be other solutions for USBC qualifying events.”
“We heard you, and the BGAEC will be following up,” said Allen, who apologized for not first communicating the decision to members. SCAA initially announced the decision exclusively through Sprudge.com, a move that led Barista Magazine to cry foul.
On June 24 SCAA, which manages the U.S. Coffee Championships, announced that going forward baristas holding a Level 1 or 2 certificate and those who have previously competed during the 2014-15 cycles are eligible to register on Jan. 18, 2016 for 35 spots in the competition. Selection is first-come, first-served with companies limited to three competitors.
Registration will then open to anyone interested in competing with 12 spots available beginning Jan. 27. Selection is first-come, first-served.
The final three spots will be reserved for scholarship recipients, part of a United States Barista Championship (USBC) program to train baristas.
In the past competitors honed their skills taking part in local and regional events that were sanctioned. Winners advanced to national competition. SCAA noted a dramatic increase in participants in the past five years leading to a 400% increase in participation in the Barista Camp, hosted by the Barista Guild of America (BGA).
A release noted that since 2013 BGA Member Driven Events (MDE) have expanded to 150 networking and educational events.
“SCAA is working closely with the Barista Guild of America Executive Council to identify new community event models that would further grow opportunities for members to learn, network and engage,” according to the release.
Lorenzo Perkins, who chairs the BGA, acknowledges that “while it is not easy to see the competitions change” the group’s executive council must “ensure we are fulfilling the Barista Guild Mission and Vision with each event.”
The decision means “valuable resources will be freed up to create new and exciting opportunities to engage our BGA membership,” he writes.
Heather Perry, 2nd vp and a two-time USBC Champion praised the decision as” creating more inclusive events such as BGA Camps and I have loved seeing how many people they have been able to reach and the enthusiasm that has come from those events.”
To ensure competitors will get the necessary practice before the elimination rounds, SCAA is working with the BGA to develop a “prep fest model that will be member-driven and will follow an event structure similar to regional competitions.” These informal, competition-like events, will enable baristas to practice their routines and learn about the competition,” according to SCAA.