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Judging a Barista Throwdown

As both a producer and importer of specialty coffee, I’ve seen my share of baristas in action. But last month, I had the opportunity to witness a barista throwdown – a competition among six well-known Worcester baristas – and judge the competitors on their creation of three different beverages.

Calling it a throwdown is a good description, as the competition was truly a physical test, like a wrestling match. Contestants had to make 12 drinks in 15 minutes. Following all the steps and maintaining technical integrity while demonstrating artistry requires elements of both grace and strength.

I was one of two technical judges working together with four tasting judges. Overseen by Acoustic Java’s owner, we evaluated an espresso, cappuccino or latte, and a signature beverage designed by each barista. My technical criteria included the overall cleanliness of the work area, general food safety hygiene throughout the presentation, and competence with equipment.

It was an eye-opening experience. I understood more clearly than ever before how important it is to see how baristas handle your beans. In the hands of experienced or less well-trained baristas, the same coffee can produce very different results.

Thanks to Acoustic Java Roastery and Tasting Room for hosting #baristajam to support excellence in delivering the perfect cup for every customer.

I will be heading back to Burundi later this week to celebrate the premiums recently received by the women farmers for this year’s harvest. You’ll be hearing from me again soon with stories and images from this important milestone in their lives – and for their communities.

In the meantime, if you want to enjoy high-quality Burundi coffee in your roastery or café, email me at, as just a few microlots remain available.

Photo from ©AcousticJava

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