Like every other global competition regarding sports, culinary aspects, arts, heck, even hot dog eating, the World Barista Championship has its share of topics that are discussed passionately. Every year at the WBC, certain things come up, certain events play out, certain situations arise, and unforeseen circumstances take place that create a point of discussion, debate, and yes, even controversy.
This year, the competitors were not able to use something they probably take for granted in most of their home countries: the little tini ISI N2o (Nitrous Oxide) chargers because they are illegal in Japan, due to abuse. These are the chargers used in devices commonly known as whip-its (or whip cream dispensers) and at the WBC in Japan, these are completely out of bounds.
This caused certain headaches for some competitors who has prepared their performance expecting to be able to use their ISI bottles to prepare creams and concoctions. Instead the National Champions have to use a provided NO2 system that sits on a side table. That too causes problems.
The whole process of extracting the NO2 takes roughly a minute to do. A minute the competing baristas didn't schedule or plan for during the competition. Many of them build the ingredients for their signature drinks during the 15 minutes of competition time, and instead of being able to pop the ISI charger into the whipper and have it set up and sealed in a few seconds, they have to step aside, and manhandle a machine they aren't even familiar with.
Because of this, the WBC organizers have arranged for special circumstances in the competition.
Competitors have their choice. They can have their competition time "frozen" as soon as they have to step over to the N2O charging machine, or, they can hand off the prepared bottle to their coach, and have the coach do the final prep on the N2O bottle and machine while the competitor continues on with their competition. Some, including James Hoffmann of the UK, have opted for the latter option - handing his charger off to his coach Stephen Morrissey, as Jim continued building his final drinks for the judges.
All in all, a pretty minor controversy, which shows this year's WBC is going on well!