The World Barista Championship ( WBC ) is a celebration of the effort, skill and dedication that baristas put into making that perfect cup of coffee. It is more than just a beverage after all; it brings people together, allows one to explore different cultures, bridge differences, create conversations and build lasting connections. The WBC brings together baristas from around the world to test their coffee making skills and gives them the ultimate platform to showcase their talent.
The format of the current tournament is based on the one that was conceptualized in Norway in 1998 to create a platform for people to explore and share their love for specialty coffee; the WBC officially kicked off in 2000. In the past, the competition was dominated by Scandinavian baristas, but the 2007 WBC held in Tokyo was a significant event in the history of the tournament; it was the first time the World Barista Championship was conducted in a place other than the United States or Europe, reflecting the change in coffee consumption patterns and the increasing interest in specialty coffee all around the world.
How Does It Work?
The 2018 edition was held in Amsterdam, in association with World Of Coffee, from 20th to 23rd June, and was host to participants from 55 different countries. The winners of the national barista championship in their respective countries - or officially appointed candidates- are given
the honour of representing their countries in this prestigious competition. It is a grueling four days affair; in the first round, participants are required to create and serve 12 different drinks to four judges in the span of 15 minutes. They are required to present four espressos, four milk-based beverages and four signature drinks to the four sensory judges, who then score them according to predefined parameters.
Before the competition:
National Barista Champions spend months leading up to the tournament in intense preparation to deliver a flawless presentation. To begin with, participants spend time understanding a different kind of coffees that are available to determine the best fit for the competition; they need to work closely with coffee producers and travel back to the origins to ensure that they make the most of it. Once the coffee has been decided on, the process of experimentation begins. This involves studying roast profiles and taking meticulous notes, establishing a balance in flavours and making sure all the elements come together to create that cup. Competing at such a high level is nerve-racking, but also extremely fulfilling because they get to represent their country’s coffee culture on an international level. They serve as coffee ambassadors because each of them brings something new and unique to showcase at WBC. It is a responsibility that they take on with pride and a sense of purpose.
The first round is judged by 4 sensory judges, 1 technical judge and 1 head judge. The participants are scored on their efficiency, timeliness, technique and skill. Sensory scores for espresso are allotted according to crema, taste balance, flavour, and correctness of the techniques used. Milk-based beverages are scored according to visual presentation, taste balance and flavour used while the signature drinks are evaluated on the basis of explanation, presentation, creativity, taste balance and flavour. But that’s not all! An essential part of being a barista is customer engagement after all; professionalism, attention to detail and understanding of the coffee story are also determined and scored accordingly.
The technical scoring, on the other hand, is carried out by one judge and contestants are evaluated on the basis of technical competencies like cleanliness, use of raw material, consistency, extraction method and proper usage of equipment.
Following the first round are the semi-finals and finals, which feature 16 and 6 participants respectively.
So, what exactly are the judges looking for? To be declared a world barista champion, one must demonstrate a mastery over the craft, have good communication skills, demonstrate a passion and broad understanding of coffee knowledge, prepare high-quality beverages and serve as a role model in the coffee world. In addition, the type of coffee that is used makes a huge difference as well.