Barista competition is getting closer, and in my first blog, I want to write something about it. Just sharing my experience and thoughts. However, talking about barista competition, I am not of one the best neither one of the champions. Semifinal was my highest achievement throughout my barista competition experience. But here are some of my thoughts on barista competition.

“Barista competition often feels confusing and unknowable, or you feel like you understand it, and then it doesn’t go the way you want. I hope you compete again, and can take everything you’ve learned forward again.” - Hoffman, 2018. True, it feels confusing most of the times, but one must not stop to reach their goals. I didn’t say that I stop competing, I just need a moment to rethink again, what is my purpose of competing, what do I want to deliver next: what message, what has been missing, etc. And through this moment, I want to breakdown and share everything about barista competition for you guys.

MOTIVATION. Motivation is what drives you to endure all of those hardships. There will be a moment where you feel alone and hopeless, but a good motivation will keep you through those hard times and reach your success (Amen). First thing before competing, think again, what is your motivation? Why do you compete? Is it fame? Or do you want to challenge your self? What do you want to achieve through this competition? What message do you want to deliver? All of them will come into one CONCEPT. This is where most of the competitor went wrong. They keep thinking about concept without thinking of the message that wants to be delivered. By doing this, they usually end up copying some of the WBC’s competitors’ concept and routines. No need to be offended, this happened to me as well. Well, you could win too, by copying them perfectly, but do you feel satisfied? Have you delivered your message? Was it you on the stage? Or was it somebody else?

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t watch WBC videos. Take them as your source of inspiration and reference, but do not copy.

Dear baristas, PLEASE READ the rules and regulation (R & R) in detail. Even though it usually refers to the WBC standard, but sometimes it could be different within each countries. For example, here in Indonesia (e.g. IBC) for the regional competition, we only need to serve espressos and milk beverages, without the signature drink. Therefore, it is worth it to spend some times to read the R & R rather than get disqualified later. Furthermore, by reading R & R and also the SCORE SHEET, a competitor can understand the “game” better, and therefore, scores better.

Barista competition is obviously not cheap, but one must spend their money smartly. Back then, I used to think that by having two stores, I could spend more on the competition needs and perform better. I was wrong, I was actually being childish. Barista competition is larger than that, it is not only about the money for competition coffee and the tools, but there are many other instruments that can help you to perform better.

Now let’s talk about the instruments. COMPETITION COFFEE. Competition coffee is not the coffee that you like the most, nor the most expensive coffee (well, it is) that you could find on “The Most Expensivest Shit” program by 2 Chainz, but it is the coffee with the best cupping scores. Therefore, please cup them fairly, don’t let your egos and biases interfere the best choice. Do a proper cupping session with your team, including your trusted roaster and coaches. You can invite some of the best Q graders if needed. Pick the coffee with the best cupping scores wisely and discuss them with your team. If it’s possible for you, try to direct source the coffee straight from the farm rather than from traders to save more budgets and get more worth out of it. 

Talking about TEAM, this is one of the key ingredients in a championship recipe. Team includes your roaster, coaches, and side kick. Team is all about trust; pick someone that you can trust on their skill and honesty. Honesty is everything here.

COMPETITION ROASTER is someone that you can trust / rely on your coffee and roast profile, so you can just focus on your routines and brewing technique. If you already picked someone as your roaster, you have to fully believe in him / her too. Let them do their job on producing the best coffee possible, including roasting and sorting, and you do your thing. Competition roaster should be very professional and open with their roast profile and be consistent about it. Even on how they pack the coffee, it has to be very consistent, because this matters. A lot.

COACH / COACHES. Now I guess this is the part where people are getting fuzzy about, and the hardest to write as well. “Whom shall I pick? Does he / she wants to coach me? Are they capable?” Yes, get someone who knows how to score, get someone that is experienced with it, and the light in the dark. Coach is not only responsible for training your routines only, but they got to be able to find the solution when there is a problem. Not focusing or even creating the problem. They have to know you very well, on your capability / limit and also your habits. Good coaches usually realize that barista competition is all about the s`cores, not gimmick. Therefore, they usually pick the best routine that suits his barista’s best, not forcing him / her to be somebody else. Actually, it’s the same with any other competition, like what I had in basketball. All the good coaches that I’ve ever had, always adjust their set plays / games to their players. Finally, before you start, spend some times with your coaches to read and understand the rules and regulation better, especially if there are some changes.

SIDEKICK is not an easy job that everyone can deal with. They have to know exactly your routines, and how do you position your cups and equipment on the trolley. Not necessarily place them for you, but they can remind you when something is missing, either your routines or your stuffs. This can be your friend that competes together with you, or you can pick someone that you trust the most with their memory and details. Having another competitor in the same team is not always bad; sometimes they can help you to improve your performance. Just like what I had on 2017 IBC with Otto Hidori from Curious People Roastery. He improved my technical skills and I helped him on his routines and speech. How time flies, I miss my training days with this guy a lot, such a talented person.

Last but not least, for all the BOSSES and BUSINESS OWNER, please remember that you are not the one who is competing. Even though you support the entire budget for your barista, they are not you and you are not them. Never force your own will to control their game. I know that maybe you just want to help, but if you already invest in them; let the TEAM work for you. TRUST them.

Finally, I dedicate this blog to all my friends in this coffee industry, all the baristas, judges, business owners, all the coffee enthusiasts out there. May this writing helps you to prepare and perform better, not repeating the same mistakes like I did.


I’ll see you guys in few years!