World Barista Championship 2012 Recap

This year’s WBC and WCE events were held in conjunction in the wonderful city of Vienna, Austria.  I had never been to this part of the world before, so my expectations of Austria were based largely off of cultural stereotypes perpetuated by the likes Arnold Schwarzenegger and movie scenes with endless plates of Weiner Schnitzel and Goulash.  I did indeed find an amazing amount of culinary gems in this city (many of which specialize in Weiner Schnitzel and Goulash), but there also was a deeper history to this city based off of legacies of extremely wealthy royal families like the Habsburgs that I was embarrassingly unaware of.  The wealth of these major noble powerhouses is literally on display throughout several different museums inside of the city, and seeing things like solid gold 20 foot long centerpieces sheds some light on the type of money these people had.

Stephansplatz Square Vienna
Now having gained a bit better understanding on the cultural context for the city in which this event took place, I was able to fully immerse myself into the show itself.  The WCE tradeshow floor is very similar to the SCAA event (although a bit smaller), with many of the same companies that have a presence in the US show also having a booth at the WCE.  Colombia in 2011 was unique in that in addition to the common tradeshow companies we see at most shows, the exhibitors in Colombia also included farm equipment companies slanging hand pulpers and micromills.  No hand pulpers or micromills on this year’s floor, but I personally found it really neat to see some of the UK and Australian based brands that do not have as big of a name yet in the US showing off their brand new coffee toys and gadgets.  We love toys!
Anne Lunnell of Koppi at the Marco Bar

The WBC event held a main corner of the show floor with massive stands, big screen projectors, and audio systems that you may have seen or heard online if you watched any of the coverage.  In addition to the WBC competition, the World Roasting Challenge, Brewers Cup, Cup Tasters Championship, and Ibrik Championship all were taking place at the same time!  There were five coffee world championships taking place on this show floor, in each corner of the show floor.   Talk about an amazing experience for the coffee geeks of the world.  This width of competitions available to see was really nice, but caused some scheduling conflicts if you, like me, had several friends you wanted to see that were competing in different events. 

World Roasting Challenge Competitors

In addition to the competitions, fun break out’s like the Tamper Tantrum stage, the Marco Brew Bar, and the espresso bar added some really neat opportunities to further dive into educational coffee topics and brewed coffee itself.   I found it personally very rewarding to chat with some fellow baristas from other countries at these mini watering holes.  The international baristas were very interested in the BGA certification programs, and it seems like many already have or plan on taking the customer service webinar.  It was very cool to hear this positive feedback on a core element of what we are working towards as a guild.
Aida Battle watching Stephanos
from Greece compete with her Coffee
Back to the WBC.  The competition brought together the best baristas from around the world, and many of the competitors also brought with them cheering squads of supporters from their home country.  54 different countries were represented at this competition.  Seeing how packed the stands would get with each competitor was electric.  The waving flags, native languages being shouted, and epic Sprudge intro videos for the finalists made the arena fill with energy and anticipation for the baristas.  Both Barista Magazine and Sprudge had excellent online coverage of the events,  allowing everyone to stay up in the loop across the globe.

2011 was a very special year for the WBC, as it was the first time in its history that a barista from a producing country (Alejandro Mendez from Viva Espresso in El Salvador) won the title.  Most people familiar with the competitions definitely expected producing countries to continue showing well, and indeed 3 of the top 6 baristas in 2012 came from coffee producing countries. 
Your top 6 in order looked like this:
1 Raul Rodas - Guatemala – 695 pts
2 Fabrizio Sención Ramírez- Mexico – 667 pts
3 Colin Harmon - Ireland - 665.5 pts
4 Miki Suzuki – Japan -  649.5 pts
5 Stefanos Domatiotis - Greece – 627 pts
6 Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood - UK – 572 pts

Congratulations Raul on being the 2012 World Barista Champion!

Photo Credit: Amanda Wilson/ World Coffee Events

The WBC every year is an opportunity to see that coffee can hold the same place in people’s hearts across all cultural barriers.  It is never more apparent to me than at events like this and BGA camp that coffee is a community builder, and we all share that common bond, driving us closer together as friends, supporters, and champions of coffee in our own individual ways.

Cannot wait for Melbourne WBC 2013!

Noah Namowicz

Barista Guild Executive Council

Cafe Imports

BlogMethod Web Dev