PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Within a few years, Morgan Eckroth has gone from filming her latte art at a Corvallis coffee shop to being crowned the best barista in the United States. Now, she’s adding one more achievement to the list.
On September 30, the Portland barista was named runner-up at the 2022 World Barista Championship, a high-stakes competition where Eckroth was judged not only on her ability to make excellent coffee beverages, but also her ability to present them and describe their flavors accurately.
“I’m pretty familiar nowadays with the U.S. circle of competition, but being able to see it on a global level was incredible,” Eckroth said.
Competition is no stranger to her because Eckroth won the United States Barista Championship in April.
From there, she took the next step and headed to Melbourne, Australia for the world competition, Sept. 27-30.
She didn’t make the trip alone. Eckroth brought along her team from Onyx Coffee Lab, including her coaches and coffee roaster. The team had worked together for weeks to prepare Eckroth for the event.
Eckroth brought her own coffee to the competition, which was roasted by Onyx. The group also helped her rehearse her presentation and accurately identify the flavors in each of the beverages she planned to prepare.
“You get to know your coffees kind of like your best friend. I was very, very familiar and comfortable with them and kind of knew them backwards and forwards by the time I got to Melbourne,” she said.
For the competition, Eckroth gave a 15-minute speaking presentation while brewing and crafting three coffees to the best of her ability. She compared it to someone multitasking while giving a TED Talk.
“When you’re serving the judges, you are giving them both flavor descriptors and tactile descriptors. So, you’re telling them exactly what the espresso is going to taste like,” Eckroth explained. “And then they are grading based on the accuracy of what you’re describing.”
Eckroth prepared an espresso course, a milk course and a signature beverage – which is expected to be a contender’s showstopper.
If the judges like the beverages and agree with the flavors the presenter describes, they’ll give them a high score.
Eckroth’s hard work and preparation paid off, earning her second place in the competition.
The World Barista Championships was one of the most stressful things Eckroth has done in her life. She grew up playing sports and participating in performances, so competing is nothing new to her. But still, she said she couldn’t have made it this far without her team.
She compared herself, as the barista, to a NASCAR driver, and said her coaches and support team are her pit crew and they’re just as important as the driver.
“That’s one of my favorite parts of this competition is that it’s not just you. It truly does feel like you have a full team with you,” she said. “It’s an honor to be able to be the one on stage, but it’s not just me. It’s always like this huge village of people behind as well.”
Eckroth is still amazed her passion for coffee has taken her this far. She said it felt like a dream come true when she accepted her first barista job in Corvallis, but didn’t know if it could be a sustainable career she could continue to do in the future. It can be a grueling job, she said, both physically and emotionally.
After graduating college at Oregon State University, she moved to Portland and found a way to continue working as a barista while chasing down other opportunities that make continuing the career more viable.
Working as a content creator has helped her become a well-known name in the coffee business and she also works in marketing and the specialty coffee industry.
“I’ve been very privileged to have been given a lot of opportunities because of the content I do and also because of competition… to get to this point where, at least for now and for the near future, I’m able to work in coffee very sustainably in a way that works for me,” Eckroth said.
Portland is Eckroth’s home for now, but said she doesn’t think she’ll stay in the Rose City forever. She knows her career might take her elsewhere and she’s preparing for that.
As for whether Eckroth will compete in the 2023 World Barista Championship, she said that’s the million-dollar question. She’s still deciding what she wants to do.
“I am a very competitive person. And so, there’s that itch that’s like ‘You could do better,’” she said.
But another part of her is ready to move on to other things, like coaching or judging top baristas in the future.
“I’d like to help others if I can. So, you’ll see me around the competition area,” she said, “in what capacity is still to be decided.”
Eckroth still regularly produces videos for her fans on social media. You can follow @morgandrinkscoffee to see more of her work.