Regular readers will remember that last year I was involved with the Beyond the Bean Barista Bursary as one of the judges, a somewhat ironic situation given my dislike of (watching) barista competitions. As I explained back then, while watching barista competitions is not for me, I fully appreciate the value that they bring to the speciality coffee industry. So many top-notch baristas I know credit the UKBCs with taking them on a massive learning curve. They talk of how competing gave a boost to their careers, something which applies to everyone, not just the winners: simply taking part has been critical to many a barista’s development.
I’m also painfully aware that competing in the UKBCs is not a trivial matter. It involves a huge investment in both time and money for the competitors, something which is in danger of shutting out baristas who don’t have a large organisation backing them. With that mind, Beyond the Bean set up its Barista Bursary last year, to provide funding for a barista who would compete in the UKBCs. I was asked to be a judge and must have done something right because Beyond the Bean has asked me back again this year!
You can find out all about the bursary, including how to enter, after the gallery.
The Beyond the Bean Barista Bursary was established last year to help aspiring baristas compete in the UKBCs. Over the years, as barista competitions have become more successful and high-profile, so the bar has been correspondingly raised. On one hand, that’s a good thing: increasing competition drives standards up. On the other hand, there’s a downside. I’ve spoken to many baristas who’ve said, in essence, that they’d love to compete (or compete again), but that they don’t have the time.
These days, you can’t just rock up to the UKBCs and compete on the day. You need to spend a lot of time preparing. You need to find a roaster, select your beans, develop your routine and, above all, practice. Practice, practice, practice. And all of this while you’re trying to hold down a job as a barista or run a busy coffee shop. It’s this level of commitment that is sadly in danger of becoming a barrier to entry, stopping talented baristas from competing in the first place.
You don’t have to take my word for it. Diana Johnson Ledezma of Taylor St Baristas, who won the inaugural Beyond the Bean Barista Bursary last year, had this to say:
“One of the biggest reasons that baristas do not compete is the financial strain that competition can cause. The other major reason is a lack of support, and guidance throughout the process. The bursary allows the competitor to remove these obstacles, in turn providing them with the opportunity to be creative.
The Beyond the Bean Barista Bursary was one of the best things that happened to me during my time as a competitor, and I sincerely recommend it to anyone wishing to compete. I was able to free my mind and focus more on enjoying the competition process, whilst learning more about coffee in general.”
You can find the full details on Beyond the Bean’s website, but the short version is that we’re looking for baristas who want to compete in the UKBCs. You can apply in writing or send us a three minute video that showcases your skills. We’ll invite the best of you to a judging day on the 9th December, where you’ll have the chance to impress us in person. If you’re curious, this is what happened at the judging last year.
We’ll select one of you to receive the bursary, an impressive package of financial support and training, to prepare you to compete in the UKBCs. The best part is, the further you go, the more support you’ll get. If you qualify for the UKBC finals, Beyond the Bean will be there, backing you all the way. If you lift the UKBC crown, Beyond the Bean will still be supporting you when you’re representing the UK in the World Barista Championships in Seoul!
“We” by the way, are the judges, James Shephard, from Beyond the Bean, Mat North, of Full Court Press and yours truly. Plus, this year, we’re delighted to welcome back last year’s winner, Diana, to join the judging panel.
So, what are you waiting for? The bursary is open to everyone, whether you’re an old hand at the UKBCs or if you’re thinking of competing for the first time. The closing date for submissions is 30th November, so get your entry in now!
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