Last night (May 7), the Specialty Coffee Association of Canada announced that Anderson Hall of the CASO Station will be the location for 2020 Eastern Qualifiers of Canada’s National Barista Championship.

“Our host in St. Thomas, Ontario has been working tirelessly over the last few months to prepare for one of the Qualifying rounds which will take place in September 8 – 10 in this beautiful historic building,” the announcement read. The event is appropriately nicknamed ‘Steam.’

CASO Station. Photo courtesy of a+LINK Architecture Inc.

Maria Fiallos of Las Chicas Del Cafe and Streamliners Espresso Bar spearheaded the effort to bring this exciting event to St. Thomas. And it took a lot of effort – a Qualifying round has never taken place outside a major city like Toronto, Montreal, or Vancouver, so Maria had to campaign for St. Thomas as an ideal location.

The announcement was somewhat of an upset for people who were expecting a more central location for the Qualifiers and will now have to travel to compete. “I knew we were going to get a pushback from people in the Toronto area, and we have already,” Maria says. “But I was ready for that. Bring it on.”

crowd of people in local coffee shop watching as baristas make drinks in st thomas competition
The OnBeat Barista Competition at Streamliners Espresso Bar, September 2018. Photo by Grayden Laing, Laing Studios/Establish Media

Maria says that her personal mission is to grow the coffee industry and to show coffee lovers the art of being a barista and brewing a good cup of coffee. To do that, “we have to take that where coffee is thriving, and coffee is thriving in smaller communities, not just the major centres.” 

This isn’t the first barista competition St. Thomas has seen. Last year, Streamliners Espresso Bar hosted the OnBeat Barista Competition as a part of Culture Days. Though it was a less intense competition, it followed the same rules and guidelines as Steam will go by. Baristas have fifteen minutes to make twelve drinks – three for each of the four judges. They include an espresso, a milk drink (such as a latte), and an original creation called their ‘signature drink.’ Baristas are scored based on their technique, presentation, and of course, the taste of the drink.

The OnBeat Barista Competition at Streamliners Espresso Bar, September 2018. Photo by Grayden Laing, Laing Studios/Establish Media

A qualifying round is the competition that baristas participate in before moving on to the national competition. Six baristas will be chosen to compete nationally, but Maria says there could be as many as 50 competitors throughout the three-day event. At least one Streamliners barista will be competing, but “I expect all of them to!” Maria jokes.

Steam will be a huge event and Maria says that putting it together has already been a community effort. It will take place September 8 to 10, 2019, and will be open to the public. The location and date of the national competition in 2020 has not yet been announced.

Establish Media will be sponsoring the event and providing live streaming throughout the competition.

Feature image courtesy of a+LINK Architecture Inc.