Barista competitions: they’re cool and all, but really pretty expensive, right? Money is a major barrier of entry for many coffee competitors, with the average barista spending thousands on their entry fees, coffees, and related expenses, to say nothing of hiring a trainer or coach.

But what if there were an all-expense-paid barista competition training program built around providing education and resources to competitors from marginalized communities? Meet Glitter Cat Barista Bootcamp, the new creation of founder T. Ben Fischer, 2018 US Barista Championships runner up. This new event launches in Philadelphia October 23rd-25th 2018 featuring courses taught by Laila Ghambari (2014 USBC Champion), Pete Licata (2013 World Barista Champion), Lem Butler (2015 USBC Champion), and Erika Vonie (2017 New York Coffee Masters champion). They’ve got a spiffy new Instagram and official website you can check out now.

GCBB is an “a new kind of training focusing on building up yourself and what makes you tick to do well in barista competitions,” focused on creating an environment for trainees where money is not a barrier to entry. Here’s more about the event’s mission statement from the official GCCB website:

“Glitter Cat Barista Bootcamp (GCBB) is a barista training program focused on providing coaching to members of marginalized communities (LGBTQ+, women, racial/ethnic minorities, persons with disabilities) for the United States Barista Championship to increase representation and diversity on the national and international barista competition stages. GCBB fully sponsors trainees (travel, room, board, training, and materials) and utilizes seasoned and successful leaders in the coffee community to train and inspire new competitors.”

This all seems like a strongly good idea, and so we simply had to learn more. Sprudge spoke with Fischer from Philadelphia.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Hey T. Ben Fischer—thanks for speaking with us. Why do think a project like this is important right now?

There is so much talent out in the world that we have yet to see simply because of lack of access to training and materials. This can be due to a multitude of reasons: racial bias, gender-bias, queerphobia, discrimination against people with disabilities…the list is endless. Looking back at the past few years of competitions we see a lot of men, specifically white men, including myself. How can we grow as an industry competitively, personally, and professionally without giving people from all cultures and communities a platform to speak? Moving forward from the 2018 competition season I knew that I needed to have an active role in finding a way to help change what the average barista competitor looks like.

Who is the project for?

This project is for people who self-identify as a member of a marginalized or vulnerable community. Glitter Cat leaves this open to interpretation of the person applying for a spot. A few communities to name are those coming from racial/ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+, women, people with disabilities. Basically, straight white cis men need not apply.

Why “Glitter Cat”—can you share with us any more about the event’s name?

Bear with me…I am an openly gay man, but in getting to this point, I was met with a lot of hatred and push-back. Thankfully I had a mom, sisters, and a few close friends who carried me through the coming out process. The years following continued to be difficult as I grew into my self and came to know who I was (a never ending process really). It was not until this past year that I truly started accepting myself for who I am and who I want to be. It was not until I accepted my quirks and oddities that I made finals for the first time at USBC 2018 after five years of competing. Being true to who we are is the only way to truly succeed. Holly Bastin, one of my coaches this year, gave me a pin before nationals that read: “More Glitter, Less Bitter” and that tag line really stuck with me. In short: Glitter Cat represents how fabulous I hope to be, an acknowledgment to others to be their 100% true self, and an encouragement to those who cannot be themselves to keep pushing forward.

Why is free education important?

Most of us baristas can barely afford to pay rent and eat, let alone focus on developing our professional careers! I have eaten so many bags of rice and cans of beans wishing I could attend a Q Grader course or Barista Camp, but simply could not afford the entry frees or accommodations. I hope to deconstruct one of the biggest barriers to training, and that is, often, money.

Thank you. 

Glitter Cat Barista Bootcamp is now actively accepting applications, as well as seeking sponsorship inquiries. Visit the official GCBB website for more details, and follow them on Instagram for updates.

Jordan Michelman is a co-founder and editor at Sprudge Media Network. Read more Jordan Michelman on Sprudge.

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