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Three US Coffee Championships on Pause Until 2021, New Qualifiers Canceled

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The competition floor at the 2019 Specialty Coffee Expo. Daily Coffee News photo.

Organizers of the United States Coffee Competitions (USCC) have announced that the three remaining U.S championships have been paused until 2021 due to concerns regarding large gatherings as the COVID-19 pandemic wears on.

In holding over the US Coffee in Good Spirits championship, US Roasters championship and Cup Tasters championship to next year, the group has also canceled the preliminary and qualifying events for those competitions for the 2021 cycle. Those 2020 championships were originally scheduled to take place as part of the Specialty Coffee Association Expo in Portland, Oregon, in April, but that event was canceled due to the pandemic.

Additionally, USCC says it has communicated its support to the 2020 US Barista and Brewers Cup champions should they choose to defer their run at the World Coffee Championships to 2021. Those 2020 championships are currently scheduled to take place in November in conjunction with the Melbourne International Coffee Expo.

An announcement signed by USCC Competitions Coordinator Nathanael May also said that the organizers are making a renewed commitment to diversity and inclusion in the competition program, while using time that would otherwise be devoted to event operations to facilitate forums, virtual town halls and other avenues of dialogue for the specialty coffee community.

Here is the letter in full:

The United States Coffee Competitions, like all coffee-related businesses and organizations, face unprecedented challenges in the current pandemic. Based on the strong recommendations of medical experts and scientists, large events like our competitions have been canceled or put on indefinite hold.

First, we want to thank the whole community, including our competitors, judges, volunteers, and sponsors, while we took the time to consider all options. Thank you to everyone who contributed their thoughts, ideas, and expertise. We know this is a hard decision for some to hear, and want everyone to know it was one taken very seriously from all angles.

The 2020 season of the US Coffee Championships was partially completed in February when we named our champions in the US Barista Championship and US Brewers Cup. The final three competitions (Coffee in Good Spirits, Roasters, and Cup Tasters) were scheduled to hold their championships in April at the Specialty Coffee Expo in Portland, OR, which was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In considering our options for moving forward—both completing the 2020 season and starting the 2021 season—we took into primary account the health and safety of the coffee workers in our community. Convening competitors and judges for a large competition comes with significant risk. We want to also be sensitive to the employment situations and finances of the people we serve. As the chairs of the US Competitions Committees, we see these two actions as necessary steps for US Competitions and our community:

  1. We are canceling the 2021 Preliminaries and Qualifiers. Instead, the competitors who have already qualified for USCIGS, USRC, and USCTC will automatically qualify for the championships in New Orleans in April of 2021 at the Specialty Coffee Expo.
  2. Additionally, we have communicated our support to our US Barista and Brewers Cup Champions if they choose to defer their candidacy from the 2020 World Coffee Championships to 2021. We fully support their decisions and know it is done out of concern for the safety of our competitors, their families, and the international coffee community.

Our first priority is the health and safety of the coffee community. This is the driving force behind our recommendations.

Returning to US competitions in 2021, we also want to recommit to a competition structure that is ever more diverse and inclusive—we reject racism, prejudice, and the marginalization of our Black colleagues. Our Competition Committees have committed to making competitions fair and equitable. We will spend time listening to and working with our community to actively evolve our coffee competitions in the diverse image of the industry they represent.

We will have actionable changes and steps outlined by October, and we commit to implementing those changes by April. We commit to using the energy otherwise spent on organizing Prelims and Qualifiers for the 2021 season to hold forum or virtual townhalls and we invite dialogue between committee members and the industry at large.

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