7 Things We Learned At This Year’s CoffeeChamps Qualifier in Knoxville

Now that CUPS is live in and around Nashville and Chattanooga, we couldn’t resist sending a dispatch to the SCAA’s US Coffee Championships qualifier event in nearby Knoxville over the weekend. Competition was extremely fierce among the baristas, many of whom have been training for years leading up to this moment.

Since many other publications will surely cover the competitors and results in detail, we decided to break down everything else that was going on. Here are seven things we learned in Knoxville this weekend:

1. Every party should have a hammock room

We went to K Brew for their latte art throwdown after party, which was a packed house with a DJ and local beer. It was a great time, and their hammock room is something everyone should aspire to.

The competition was intense here too – here’s the final round:

That’s some serious latte art.

2. Coffee is more exciting than dinosaurs

At the same time as CoffeeChamps, there was a dinosaur exhibit on the other side of the Knoxville Convention Center. Not that we don’t love dinosaurs (we really do!), but it was clear which event was the place to be.

Saturday saw both events over-shadowed by the Knoxville branch of the Women’s March, which drew three thousand people, some of whom went back and forth from the convention center to see the baristas compete.

3. America has a Press, and it’s a bit different from the French Press


We met Alexander of American Press, whose graduate thesis was to create a mess-free French Press. He ended up creating and bringing to market a device that is cleaner, easier to use, and virtually indestructible.

4. Tasting coffee can get pretty competitive

Royal Coffee is a coffee importer that hosts classes around the country, and they had a game at their booth where attendees tasted coffee and tried to differentiate the brews by acidity, boldness and sweetness.

Winners were entered into a raffle for 22 pounds of green coffee, leaving many non-roasters to wonder what they were supposed to do with a whole bunch of green coffee. Jury’s still out on that one.

5. The Knoxville Sunsphere is a thing that exists, and it’s pretty cool

See that giant golden disco ball in the background? It was built for the 1982 World’s Fair, and marks the entrance to the Knoxville Convention Center.

Honeybee Coffee, featured in the foreground, was the main sponsor of the event and is a local favorite for fresh-roasted java.

6. Millennials will use almost anything as a photo wall

…including a giant Coffee Flavor Wheel. It turns out that the SCAA’s official flavor wheel makes a great backdrop, and there are tons of great photos on Instagram with people posing in front of it.

7. Knoxville has some great coffee shops!

Aside from the shops already mentioned above, we managed to squeeze in some time for visits to Remedy Coffee, Old City Java, and Old City’s sister bakery Wild Love Bakehouse.

Great brews and bites across the board, and we loved Remedy for their modern warehousey vibe, not to mention Old City Java’s Van Gogh-inspired ceiling art.

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