Starbucks Will Hold Its First North America Barista Championship This June

While people may love Starbucks' signature drinks and seasonal recipes, we all know what makes a specific location great is the baristas. A company can come up with fun products and talk about quality all it wants, but if you don't have talented, dedicated people executing the plan it can all fall apart. Even with that knowledge, retail and fast food service employees are prone to be overlooked, as customers expect quick turnarounds with little acknowledgment of all the work going on behind the scenes. Thankfully Starbucks is stepping up to recognize the talents of its many employees with its inaugural North America Barista Championship this year.

Starbucks' Barista Championships have happened before, going back to 2013 in the U.K. and Ireland, but this is the first time a competition is being held to represent the entirety of the United States and Canada, a surprising fact given the company's Seattle birthplace. The tournament will start in February, with store managers picking one barista from each store to represent them. That means a potential pool of over 15,000 competitors vying for coffee glory. Winners will move up through district, area, and regional level competitions each month, culminating in a finale at Starbucks' headquarters in Seattle in June. While the championship will focus on coffee making, the competitions will cover a wide range of skills Starbucks considers important.

Starbucks barista champions will complete to win an educational coffee trip

The first round of the Starbucks North America Barista Championship in March will focus on coffee tasting, with baristas challenged on the company's coffee and heritage, along with related skills like food pairings. The second round will be all about making signature drinks. Baristas will compete to make the best versions of existing drinks like Caramel Macchiatos, and also create and present their own custom beverage using traditional in-store ingredients. The third round will be based on combining coffee and storytelling, and the final championship round will combine coffee skills, knowledge of sustainability, and the final presentation of the baristas' signature drinks. Judges will be a mix of Starbucks Coffee Masters and developers, company leaders, and quality-control professionals.

The final winner of the competition will win a pretty big prize: a trip to Hacienda Alsacia, Starbucks' coffee farm and research complex in Costa Rica. This is an experience first offered to some employees last year and involves a multi-day tour of a coffee farm that takes baristas through every step of the process, from breeding, planting, and harvesting coffee cherries, to roasting and tasting. Beyond the beautiful Costa Rican surroundings, it sounds like a dream come true for any coffee lover.

By June you may be able to brag that your favorite barista, the one who's been getting your drink right for the past half-decade, will be crowned the champion of the inaugural Starbucks North America Barista Championship.