Every year, coffee professionals from around the country gather to test their skills at The U.S. Barista Championships. It is the national stage for baristas to showcase their craft within the industry, but prior to the event are two Qualifying Competitions (called CoffeeChamps) where 120 baristas vie for only 36 spots.


One of our very own baristas, Jillian Hamrick, will represent Joe Van Gogh at the CoffeeChamps in New Orleans, LA. She will prepare and serve her coffee to a panel of judges during a 10-minute presentation. During that time, she must produce espressos and her own signature drink to four sensory judges; all while being assessed on her preparation of the coffee by two technical judges. It is a solo performance, but Jillian’s preparation for the event has not been done alone. “It’s definitely not just [been] me. It’s a giant team effort and I feel very fortunate.”


Leading up to CoffeeChamps, Jillian has had the opportunity to work directly with everyone along our supply chain – from green buyer to roaster to various coffee specialists. In addition, Jillian has the privilege of having staff members who have previously competed to share their experiences. Accompanying Jillian to New Orleans will be her Coach and 2014 Big Eastern Regional competitor, Brian Maiers. Brian offers unique insight not only from his past experiences, but from his extensive knowledge as our Product Development and Beverage Manager as well. Together Brian and Jillian have been working on her presentation and refining her technique. With the input and advice from all her resources, Jillian has had the best support she could hope for, “I feel like I have the strongest team behind me.”


This entire collaboration is reflection of the idea that although baristas are at the forefront of specialty coffee, serving you the coffee drinks we all enjoy every day, coffee isn’t made in their hands alone. Throughout its journey, coffee passes through many hands as it travels from its farm of origin to your morning cup. That final destination to you is the connection to all those people. In a similar sense, when Jillian steps in front the judges at CoffeeChamps, she represents each one of the people involved in producing the coffee she will ultimately serve.


Please join us in cheering Jillian on as she competes the New Orleans CoffeeChamps from February 2-3! You can watch the livestream HERE.