Plant based milks for World Coffee Events! Let's start the conversation

According to the 2019 World Barista Championship Official Rules and Regulations, competitiors must use cow's milk to create their milk beverage, and competitiors who choose not to follow this rule face disqualification from the competition. We think it's time that World Coffee Events (aka the guys who make the rules) update the rules to reflect the current state of the coffee industry, particularly given that worldwide more and more cafes and coffee professionals are embracing plant-based alternative milks. You can sign the petition here.

Cole Torode chats with Chris Tellez at the Canadian National Barista Championship 2019 where Chris was disqualified for using an oat milk in his milk beverage. Photo: @bheathertownsend

Cole Torode chats with Chris Tellez at the Canadian National Barista Championship 2019 where Chris was disqualified for using an oat milk in his milk beverage. Photo: @bheathertownsend

Today, March 15th, marks Day 1 of the Canadian National Barista Championship, and my best buddy Chris Tellez will be one of 23 competitors battling it out for the title of Barista Champion. If the judges are good at judging, my buddy Chris will come last. In fact, he'll be disqualified. All because of his decision to use a plant-based milk instead of a cow's milk for his milk-based beverage.

Chris is no stranger to the competition circuit. In 2015, he was the Canadian National Latte Art Champion, and in 2009, 2014 and 2015 he was the Central Canadian Barista Champion. As well as obviously being good at coffee things, Chris is a vegan. He owns 2 incredible cafes and within these he serves a variety of plant based milks to a very welcoming audience. In Canada, as well as many other parts of the world, plant-based milks are on the rise, particularly with growing concerns over the sustainability of the dairy sector. So today, for the first time in his competition career, Chris will be competing with a plant-based milk, so that he can a) finally taste the beverages he's presenting to the judges and b) so that he doesn't have to compromise his ideals to participate in the National Barista Championship. 

We think it's time that World Coffee Events opened a dialogue about rule 2.2.2 that states that "a milk beverage is a combination of one single shot of espresso... and steamed cow's milk" and started talking about how the World Barista Championship rules could be updated to be more inclusive and sustainable going forwards. It would be pretty cool if Chris, and people like Chris, could compete and not be disqualified for using ethical, sustainable and delish cow's milk alternatives. 

‘How to Have a Career in Coffee’ - a panel discussion at Beanstock Coffee Festival 2018 featuring Kat of Boxcar Social, Ben of Monogram Coffee, Cill from Floozy and Chris Tellez. Photo @bheathertownsend

‘How to Have a Career in Coffee’ - a panel discussion at Beanstock Coffee Festival 2018 featuring Kat of Boxcar Social, Ben of Monogram Coffee, Cill from Floozy and Chris Tellez. Photo @bheathertownsend

Chris was interviewed by Sprudge about his decision to use a plant based milk in the Barista Champs and you can read the full article here.


Hey Chris — thanks for speaking with Sprudge. How did the plan for this statement come into place? How long have you been working on it?

Chris Tellez: I had thought about this idea since my last time competing, but was unsure of how to make it work, especially because the availability of great plant-milks is a pretty recent occurrence. I first shared this idea with my partner, and then my very dear friend Priscilla Fisher of Floozy Coffee Roasters. I think right away they both saw the intention behind it, and how important it was to me and encouraged me to make it happen. I really went back and forth, trying to decide if this was the best course of action for a long time, but once it came time to actually sign up I knew two things for sure. That I wanted to compete, and that I just could not justify using an animal product in order to do so.

Talk to us about coordinating your routine with a petition—we’ve never seen something quite like that before. 

Floozy was paramount in making this happen, and we most definitely planned to have the petition ready to sign once the performance was over. I also want to be super clear that the petition is coming from a place of huge respect and admiration for the competition. This competition has meant so much to me and my career over the years, and this is simply about testing the waters to see how many other people are interested in creating a dialogue surrounding this potential rule change. Floozy was a huge part of making this happen I truly hope that the WCE view this simply as a barometer of the industry, rather than an attack on all the incredibly hard work they do for us as baristas. I want this to spark respectful, honest dialogue and to help us all move forward, if that is what enough of the industry decides is important.

What role did your veganism play in the decision to make this statement?

I am vegan, and have been for the better part of the past 13 years. There was a short period where I was consuming animal products again, which coincided with a pretty heavy bout of depression, and manifested in an eating disorder. It was through becoming plant-based again that I was able to regain some of my balance and work through some of that trauma. this is something I’ve been really open about in the industry, and even lead a talk last year at the SCA Canada workshop all about Personal Wellness in the coffee industry.

My veganism most definitely played a role in my decision to do this, but regardless I think just looking at the pure environmental impact of milk and it’s major role in the carbon footprint of the coffee industry at the cafe level is enough to give anyone pause. Most of the numbers I pulled were from the United Nations’ FAO report on Dairy production, and since this is a global competition it felt like the most accurate numbers to describe our situation as an industry.

The other reality is that there are a lot of places in my life where I am not the most sustainable, eco-friendly and responsible as I could be, so this is no way is some kind of holier than thou sort of thing. I still drive a car, I still buy new clothing instead of getting everything first hand, I still have an iPhone, I have all the same habits as everyone else, but my veganism, and by extension this routine is my way of trying to offset those things a little, especially considering how environmental demanding our industry can be. “



Priscilla Fisher