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America’s Barista Title Hopes Rest In the Hands of One Seattle Woman

Sam Spillman of Dillanos Coffee Roasters is competing in the World Coffee Championships

Sam Spillman will go up against baristas from around the globe in the World Coffee Championships.
Dillanos Coffee Roasters

This weekend, the best baristas in the world are gathering in Boston — and the only U.S. representative is from the Seattle area (naturally). Sam Spillman, who currently works at Dillanos Coffee Roasters in Sumner and lives in Seattle, earned a spot in the 2019 World Coffee Championships’ barista group after smoking the competition in the U.S. Coffee Championships in Kansas City last month. She’ll go up against more than 65 other baristas from around the globe in Boston starting Thursday, before someone is crowned world champ Sunday. Consider it the Olympics of coffee.

But how exactly does a world barista competition work? Well, according to the official rules, competitors must serve three drinks — an espresso, a milk-based beverage, and a special coffee drink of their choosing — in a 15-minute time period to four judges, and all four drinks in each category must be made using the same type of bean. Speed is of the essence, but the judges will be looking for taste balance — just the right mix of sweetness and acidity. Presentation counts, as well: Points are deducted if there’s any sloppy spillage, while creativity is given high marks.

That should be no sweat for Spillman. The Idaho native, 26, made her barista bones working in the highly-caffeinated Seattle scene right out of college at Ladro Coffee Roasters and Cherry Street Coffee. She first started competing five years ago and came under the tutelage of Cherry Street’s 2014 U.S Barista champ Laila Ghambari to learn the craft at a higher level. In March, Spillman wowed the judges in Kansas City with a special concoction that involved putting passionfruit juice, sugar and coconut vinegar in a sous vide for six hours (competitors are allowed to do prep work), then adding an orchid aromatic fog. She also used distilled milk to bring out the flavors in her espresso.

Now, Spillman is poised for greater glory. Root her on by checking out the competition streaming live here. Much more scintillating than the Masters.

Dillanos Coffee Roasters

1607 45th St E, Sumner, WA 98390 (800) 234-5282