Cerianne Bury judging the World Brewers Cup Finals

Innovation and Consistency:
Interview with Cerianne Bury

In the ever-evolving realm of specialty coffee, the interplay between consistent quality and innovative cup profiles perfectly illustrates the contrasting desires within the green coffee buying sphere. As coffee competitions push the boundaries of coffee taste and continually push innovation, while regulatory standards on a broader level ensure safety, integrity and consistency. To delve into this narrative about innovation and consistency, we had the chance of interviewing Cerianne Bury – Global Quality Manager at Trabocca and Judge for World Coffee Competitions.

Join us unraveling Cerianne’s journey, from her humble beginnings as a barista to her pivotal role as Chair of the Competitions Strategic Committee for the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA). With candid reflections, she shares her insights and experiences navigating the competitive landscape of coffee, transitioning from competitor to judge, and now, a strategic leader helping to shape the coffee industry’s future.

Can you briefly introduce yourself and your first steps into the world of coffee?


In 2005 I started working as a barista in Amsterdam at the Coffeecompany. A chain of cafes in the Netherlands, serving specialty coffee. Being a barista came quite naturally to me. Within 3 months I came out as best barista of our cafe in the company’s internal barista competitions.

A few years later I started training new baristas, organizing the internal competitions, helped create and develop the new barista trainings and then moved to training and managing the trainers. After finishing my master’s in international relations, I made the choice to first try building a career in coffee. And now almost 20 years later, I believe I can say I have.


How did you get involved in coffee competitions?


It all started with a colleague who loved the World Barista Championship, organized by World Coffee Events (WCE). He was a real ambassador! Showing the competitions to everybody in the company. Competing himself and pushing others to do the same. At one point he convinced me to compete in Latte Art competition in the Netherlands. I did and placed third. Although getting a lot of satisfaction from training for the competition, I did not like competing at all… all that attention. Horrible. After training other competitors, and a few more participations in some other events, such as latte art throwdowns and AeroPress competitions I quickly moved to judging. First in the Netherlands, on the national level and then got certified to be a sensory judge on the world level two years later. My first experience judging on the world level was in Budapest. Around the same time, I got involved in the strategic group for the World Barista Championship.

Congratulations on your recent promotion to the chair of strategic committee for the world coffee championships. Can you explain your responsibilities with this new role?


Thanks. I became Chair of the Competitions Strategic Committee (CSC) this year. This is a volunteer-based leadership group that supports the World Coffee Championships. As a group we work in competition formats, rules, regulations, judges, sponsorships, marketing, and anything other related to competitions.

The oldest competition, the World Barista Championship, was held in 2000 – building a strong foundation, but it’s not that old. At the same time, the specialty coffee industry has changed a lot since 2000. We want to keep improving and developing on all aspects. It’s a big set of responsibilities and topics.

As the chair it is my job to help lead the Committee, together with SCA staff. This includes determining the agenda, planning meetings and to be available as arbitration if there are complaints or issues that come up.

Could you ever imagine yourself in this position during your first sips of specialty coffee?


When I started making coffee, I was only 19 years and barely knew the coffee industry. Around 2016 I got pulled into World Coffee Events. After I had written a blog post and then gave a Re;co Symposium presentation on women competing in the barista competition. Only trying to make some noise, I never expected to be asked to help strategize and think about what competitions should look like. I’m very grateful that door opened. Working behind the scenes has been amazing to do. Very satisfying on many different levels.


What does your engagement in the Strategic Commitee mean to you personally?


The purpose the CSC has set itself is to celebrate the craft of coffee, by inspiring, engaging and fostering communities worldwide. To provide a platform for recognition, innovation and growth through events that are accessible and relevant to everyone along the supply chain and at every skill level.

That’s ambitious but a good guidelight. And I can only hope to help support this, as strategic planning fascinates me. How one change can influence something you had perhaps not directly thought of. Part of my personality is being very organized, so I hope I can bring some of that to the table. But most of all, I hope I can continue to uphold the atmosphere of cooperation into which I was welcomed years earlier. Any strategic group can only be successful if all are welcome to speak their mind and be heard.

How do you perceive the significance of coffee competitions for the industry?


Depending on your connection to the competitions, what you get out of it can be different. Because there are competitors and judges, but there are also volunteers, sponsors, organizers…It can be a platform to highlight coffees or products you produce or sell. And you can develop your coffee skills, whether you are a beginner in the industry or a veteran. But the two most important aspects, in my opinion, are making connections, friends really, and self-development. We are bringing the world together in our shared love of coffee. We learn, share and build culture through coffee.

What was the biggest learning you had during judging?


First thing I learned was, that I’m a better judge than a competitor! All the respect for these people. I think it’s amazing how they show up, on a stage, in complete vulnerability showcasing what they believe in and are capable of, and how they are always ready to learn more and become better at what they do.

On a personal level, there are a lot of things I have learned and continue to learn. Competitions have taught me how to express my opinion, in a structured and fair way. Why should something or someone’s presentation get a specific score? Why not higher? Why not lower? This has helped me a lot as a Q grader and cupper as well.

It has taught me how to work with people from all over the world, most of whom I have never met before, and build a team that supports each other in a very short amount of time. And it keeps teaching me to listen actively. Not just on stage as a judge, but also backstage. To other judges, and to competitors when debriefing them on their results.

Can you explain recent changes in the competition scene and where do you see it heading in the next years?


All competitions bring something else to the table and showcase different skills. And each competition takes place at different skill levels too. Every competition needs different changes and a different vision. What works for one competition, may not work for another. And what works for a World Finals, might not work for a Preliminary on a National Level. But in general, the biggest change we had recently was alignment with the new Coffee Value Assessment of the SCA. This is something we are still getting used to but will greatly benefit the competitions. Additionally, we’ve made steps to make judging easier. Both for the judge, but also with the goal of making it easier for the competitor to be rewarded for their skills. I hope we continue this route.

Additionally, the coffee community keeps growing, so we really need to think about how we can organize bigger and bigger events, without influencing the added value that all different people involved get from competitions. So that will also definitely be part of our discussions.

What are your hopes for the future of coffee competition and coffee industry in general?

That washed and natural processed coffee finds its way back to the competition floor! On a personal level I hope that infused or inoculated coffees are not the only future of specialty coffee. But that diversity of processing remains. But that might just be my 2005 barista-self speaking. More broadly I hope that all skill levels remain welcome. That we continue to be a place where trends and innovations are showcased and debated, like inoculated coffees. That we learn how to balance craft and innovation. That the competition continues to be a place of collaboration, despite being a competition.




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