Barista Magazine

DEC 2018 - JAN 2019

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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where you get to actually interact with someone as a person, so if we can throw a party where guests get to meet each other as actual people, hopefully they will create connections and spark ideas that will help them do the next crazy thing in coffee. SA: Why did you want to bring TBL to the States? What were your challenges and early doubts about it? SM: [Laughs] Do you remember throwing parties in high school, and an hour before it starts you have that anxiety about if anyone is actually going to show up or not? That is the experience I have at least once every time we do The Barista League, and committing to a four-stop tour on a different continent was just an intense version of this. Obviously in the end it worked out super well, and I have to credit some of our incredible partners and hosts who made the process so smooth and the events so much fun. To describe how it started, in 2016 we be- gan to see more people on Instagram asking us when we would come to the U.S.A. About the time of the World of Coffee in Budapest [2017], I met with some of my partners and before I could say a word they were asking when we were coming to the United States, so I guess from there we were committed and just needed to make it happen. SA: How did it go? Did you enjoy it? What happened that you wouldn't have expected? What was the reaction from Americans about TBL? SM: I think, although the format doesn't change very much, people have a some- what fl exible understanding of what The Barista League is until they go to their fi rst event. So it is always interesting to see what people expect to see, and I think in the U.S.A. everyone who came to compete really came prepared. Everyone had read the rules, there were matching outfi ts and a fair few competitive people out to win. It was a bit more of a prepared and competitive approach than in Europe, but once the controlled chaos of the event begins, everyone just slides into the fl ow of the evening. Having said that, every single person we met was so great and gracious and just excited to be there and be engaged with their community of peers. It was really amazing to see that some people had driven for like six hours to just come and hang out with us. SA: Now looking forward, what does the future hold for TBL, from next year to fi ve years from now? SM: Externally I just want to keep doing better and better events for people. We are going to concentrate on just a few big events per year, and make sure they are the best they can possibly be. I would like all of our events to be thoughtful, inclusive, new, and above all fun for everyone who comes. Internally I have a goal to make sure to make the events sustainable for all the people who help make it happen. Bootstrapping events means that you rely on a lot of favors from photographers, stage managers, helpers, judges, hosts, cafés, etc. As we grow, I would love to be able to give something back to these people and especially make sure that creatives are actually paid for their time. SA: And the future for Steve? Will you stay in Sweden indefi nitely at this point? Will you compete in barista comps again? SM: I don't think I'll compete any more. I would much prefer to be behind the scenes if possible. And for now I will keep living in Sweden—I really love it here (despite and especially because of the snow!). 75

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