2019 United States Barista Champion - Samantha Spillman

Photo credit: Barista Magazine

Photo credit: Barista Magazine

We recently spoke with the 2019, US Barista Champion, Samantha Spillman and asked her a couple questions about her experiences in competition and her thoughts on the coffee industry. Sam also passed along some of her pro-tips for those getting ready to compete. Check out below to see what she has to say!

You first competed in the Big Western Barista Competition back in 2014. Competitions have changed a lot in terms of format, amongst other things, but do you believe we have moved forward in terms of providing a more accessible competition platform? Do you think there are still changes that need to be made?

Sam:  Since my first competition in 2014, I think we as an industry have been successful in providing a more accessible competition platform. Adding prelims to the competition season is one way that has allowed new baristas to give competition a try with very little investment. Also, Glitter Cat Barista has done a great job in providing positive training and feedback to baristas.

Photo credit: Barista Magazine

Photo credit: Barista Magazine

What was it like when you first competed in comparison to competing now? Was it difficult to obtain support from sponsors? How has the industry environment changed?

Sam: Competition has completely changed from the first time I competed in comparison to this past competition season. As we grow and raise the standard in the industry, the same happens for competition. The standards for competition are constantly changing. Each competition year gets harder and harder, and challenges baristas to be better and better. As I have seen the competition environment change, I see sponsorship by supportive companies grow simultaneously. When I competed for USBC this year, I received amazing sponsorship from Slow Pour and Fellow Products. It is encouraging for me to see competition grow and get better, and also for support for competitive coffee professionals to increase too.

What are some of your pro tips for first time competitors as they begin to prepare for their competition season? What are the things you wish you knew in the beginning?

Sam: If I could offer any advice to first time barista competitors, it would be to not to be afraid to ask for help. This industry has the potential to be very inclusive, but you have to invite people into your experience. Ask veteran competitors for help. Don’t be afraid to reach out to companies like Slow Pour. Competition creates the opportunity for coffee professionals and companies to grow together, and as a result, grow this industry.

What is the biggest reason you choose to use our pitcher for the competition?

Sam: I chose to use Slow Pour pitchers for competition, because they were the most comfortable to use. With them being lighter in weight, I feel like they give me the ultimate control over my pours.

Huge thank you to Sam for answering our questions and sharing some tips for those looking to compete in the future. Sam is a vibrant competitor who is ready to take on the coffee world with her fresh perspective and drive to do coffee well. We are so excited for her win and are looking forward to watching as this new part of her career unfolds.

Article by Amy Smithwick

Photo Credit: Barista Magazine

Anita Tam