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Supporting Coffee via Competition: Spotlight on Strumpf

Ben Put competing in 2023 Canadian National Barista Competition
Many of you are familiar with seeing Swiss Water's Director of Coffee, Mike Strumpf, through his visible presence on the coffee competition circuit these many years. But you may not all know the value of his current role as a World Coffee Events Representative—the latest chapter in a career-within-a-career supporting up-and-coming coffee professionals. As a WCE Representative, Mike holds a unique and important leadership position in the competition world, ensuring competitions like Brewers Cup and Barista Championships are run to the letter of the rules and regulations, and in a manner which supports competitors.

This year, Mike has returned to the competition floor after both personal and pandemic hiatuses, and was thrilled to bring his years of expertise to helping oversee the Canadian National Barista Championships in Calgary.

"It’s quite emotional for me to be back in competitions after being away for three years," says Mike. "My personal values have shifted and I am even more focused on supporting and uplifting individuals, so I have a renewed excitement to be out in the world enabling people to become better." 

Mike Strumpf preparing espresso in a mid 2000s barista competition at Intelligentsia Coffee.
Mike has been on both sides of the competition table, having started as a competitor in barista competitions in the early 2000s. Once his career saw him leaving the coffee bar for the cupping room, Mike shifted focus in the competition realm as well, moving from competition to judging, and now to WCE Representative.

"I have always gotten a lot out of the competitions, so I continue to be involved so that I can help create those opportunities for others," says Mike.

"Through my competition involvement, I have always wanted to make an impact on individuals and in communities," Mike continues. "These coffee competitions are a niche segment of specialty coffee, but I have seen how they can transform the level of coffee being presented in communities. This is a big driver for me as I believe that this niche community can help raise coffee quality in general, and thus support more people in the value stream with higher prices."

Mike's work has taken him around the world as a judge at national competitions, as well as being a judge and head judge at the World Barista Championship. While living in the US, and even after moving to Canada, Mike developed judges as Barista Competition Committee Chair for a number of years. Once he moved to Canada in 2011, he focused on Canadian judging and supporting the specialty coffee community in Canada.

Through his work supporting the coffee community at large, and the individuals who participate in competitions, Mike has seen a growth in his impact just as he, himself, has grown.

"My progression from competitor to judge to event organizer to national head judge to international head judge to WCE Representative and as a Judge Operations Lead at the World Barista Championship has realized my intention of impacting more and more individuals as I move further and further away from being on stage," says Mike. "That isn’t to say that competitors cannot make huge impacts! It’s just that I was not that type of competitor. I think my lasting impact as a competitor was using music from James Bond movies and making a pun about 'shots'."

We're always here to celebrate and support Mike in his worthy efforts to uplift, encourage, and generate groans from the coffee community via his unwavering positivity (and bad puns). Three cheers for Mike, and all of those behind the scenes of these meaningful events.

Photos courtesy Alison Ensworth, Jill Hoff, and Mike Strumpf.

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