Last year as part of an overall strategy to contribute more to specialty coffee, we set out to build relationships with the artisans of the community – the baristas themselves. Not knowing what to specifically expect we hoped to gain insight into their perspective and for our business to assist in their pursuit of excellence. With this goal in mind we formed the Urnex Ambassador program. It started with multiple skype conversations with current national champion baristas from all over the world - learning, listening and sharing.
How did they get involved with coffee?
What inspired them to start competing?
What are some of the challenges facing specialty coffee right now?
How are they selecting their competition coffee?
Initially not sure how responsive the baristas would be, we quickly saw how open and engaging they all were. Quick to respond and set up conversations, what we thought might be an intimidating venture was becoming quite fun and informative! The range of backgrounds, interests and coffee perspectives ran the gamut and each national champion conversation led to new ideas and growth.
During our first year of the program, we sponsored 10 Ambassadors. Word started to spread at the World Barista Championship (WBC) in Seattle last year as our ambassadors got to know one another and were seen wearing their Urnex gear. More sharing, learning and listening. Not to mention – watching them compete. Despite the pressures of the competition the ambassadors spent time with our team allowing us to get to know them and their teams better. We left Seattle knowing we had something great to build on and wanted to do more. During the past year, we have enjoyed the continued work we have done with several ambassadors in their home countries.
In 2016 we were excited to expand the program to 12 ambassadors. Six of this year’s ambassadors were part of the program last year and were competing again so it was like reengaging with old friends. We brought on 6 new ambassadors several of whom were competing for the first time and they easily connected to the rest of the team. The diverse group of champions led to more experience and knowledge sharing.
This years World Barista Championship began this past Wednesday in Dublin, Ireland. We couldn’t wait for it to start and watch all the competitors show the world their hard work and exceptional talent. The journey to become a competitor at the WBC is long and the competition was steep. We cheered for all of our ambassadors to our highest octave.
Of the more than 60 national champions that competed, only the top 12 advance to the next round. Of the 12 semi-finalists, six were members of the Urnex Ambassador program:Lex Wenneker(The Netherlands), Charlotte Malaval(France), Lem Butler(USA), Yoshi Iwasu(Japan), Berg Wu(Taiwan) and Ben Put(Canada). We were overjoyed for them!
On Friday the top 12 competed in hopes of moving on to the final six that would take place on Saturday. The performances were fantastic and the bar keeps getting set higher and higher.
As we anxiously waited in the stands for them to announce the top six we started to hear the names being called: Charlotte…Yoshi…Lex…Lem….Ben….Berg – a clean sweep! The Urnex Team was roaring with pride and happiness for our ambassadors and friends.
Following such an exciting announcement (the top 6!) we were glued to our seats during the entire finals competition day - watching and cheering for all the Urnex Ambassadors. As the competition closed we sat anxiously waiting for the winners to be announced.
At this point, no matter the outcome, all ambassadors are winners in our eyes. We at Urnex have won by getting to know all 12 of our ambassadors and being part of their journey to compete in the World Barista Championship. As the winners were announced, we heard:
Sixth Place: Lex Wenneker
Fifth Place: Charlotte Malaval
Fourth Place: Lem Butler
Third Place: Ben Put
Second Place: Yoshi Iwasu
First Place: Berg Wu
The crowd went crazy and we soaked it all in - it was an amazing event to be a part of.
Congratulations to the 2016 World Barista Champion Berg Wu and all 12 of our Urnex Ambassadors who competed this week!
Over time, what we have taken away from this process is that these passionate, driven and hardworking men and women have an inspirational voice able to grow and elevate the role of specialty coffee all over the word. Urnex wants to be there to help - thinking and supporting each of them as they pursue their dreams to grow specialty coffee around the world.!
We at Urnex believe it is our mission to help the world make better tasting coffee through proper equipment care and cleaning. In order to get better at our job we work hard to learn from the best baristas around the world. We feel so honored to have these friends and advisors on our team. We are humbled by their skill, determination, and commitment to excellence.
We can’t wait for next year…..