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In 2000, a group of like-minded individuals came together in Monte Carlo to hold the first annual World Barista Championship. The intention of this gathering was to create a competition that would showcase the best coffeemakers from across the globe, at a time when the drinking of quality coffee was becoming a major world consumer interest. A dozen people competed in that competition, from various nations, with the top prize being won by Norway?s Robert Thoresen, with an Icelandic barista in second and a Danish coffee maker third.
In 2001, the competition came to the US, specifically the sunny city of Miami, Florida, where seventeen baristas battled it out for the title of World Champion. While Americans consider their coffee the equal of anyone in the world, it was once again a Scandinavian barista ? Denmark?s Martin Hildebrandt – who had come third the year previously, who took the big prize, followed by representatives from Norway and Sweden.
24 baristas battled for the 2002 crown, but the stranglehold on the title held by the European North continued as Denmark?s Fritz Storm won the crown, with an Indian barista cracking third place ? the first time a non-Scandinavian had been in the honors. For the 2003 championships in Boston, the competition was actually broadcast on national TV, allowing 20 million people around the world to see Australian Paul Bassett beat out the Northern Europeans for the first time to take gold. A year later, in Trieste, Italy, the home of Italian espresso, 34 baristas rumbled with 2001 and 2002 silver medalist Tim Wendelboe of Norway coming out on top, with Canadian Salvatore Piccolo beating out a Danish competitor for third.
Clearly the Scandinavians dominate the arena of competitive coffee making, so when the 2005 World Barista Championship came to the home of Starbucks, Seattle Washington, the Americans were out to prove their worth on their home turf. The competition was hot and heavy (and frothy!), but when the cinnamon dust settled, the winner was once again a Dane. The final results:
Champion: Troels Overdal Poulsen, DENMARK
2nd place: Hiroyuki Kadowaki, JAPAN
3rd place: Salvatore Piccolo, CANADA
4th place: Carl Sara, NEW ZEALAND
5th place: Jonina S. Tryggvadottir, ICELAND
6th place: Gunnhilde Seljenes, NORWAY
The strong showing of competitors from Japan, Canada and New Zealand bodes well for the future of the World Barista Championship. If we were to allocate 3 points for a championship winner, 2 for second place and 1 for third, this is how the international scoreboard would look since the inception of the event:
Can the Americans make a strong showing in 2006? Time will tell…