Every year, Starbucks challenges its baristas around the world to make the best latte art, espresso drinks, and be even more knowledgeable about coffee. To become a “Barista Champion”, Starbucks baristas have to demonstrate the espresso excellence that Starbucks is known for. The Starbucks champions are working baristas who have beaten the best baristas from their district to be named country champion.
The Starbucks MENA Barista Championship is a regional championship that was initiated by Starbucks MENA in 2014 and sees the Starbucks country champions from across the region competing against each other.
The championship comprises of several rounds. The Personal Coffee Tasting gives the baristas the opportunity to lead a session with three different coffees. Baristas use different brewing methods such as Coffee Press and Turkish, and pair their coffees with foods like dates, citrus fruits and cheese. The Lucky Dip challenges the baristas’ knowledge of Starbucks core coffee range. Bar Skills tests the baristas’ mastery behind the bar on espresso-based beverages such as lattes, cappuccinos, caramel machiattos and flat whites. The Signature Beverage round gives contestants the opportunity to showcase their creativity by innovating a new beverage. The final round puts participants against each other with a Quiz, testing their knowledge on everything Starbucks related.
This year, after the scores were tallied and the judges had finished deliberating, the results were announced: Mary Joy Tandiama from the UAE was crowned MENA Barista Champion – Southern Markets, and Khay Santos from Kuwait was named MENA Barista Champion – Northern Markets.
The MENA Barista Championship was held in Kuwait on June 9, and featured regional barista champions Aimalyn Sayson of Bahrain, Marian Rizkahllah of Egypt, Mohammad Hadeed of Jordan, Barjien Tanjilil of KSA, Khay Santos of Kuwait, Kodmous Ayyoub of Lebanon, Dipen Bista of Qatar, Kassandra Blanca Ignacio of Oman and Mary Joy Tandiama of the UAE.
Mary Joy will represent MENA for the title of “EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) Barista Championship – 2015” which will be held in the UK. This is the first year that 24 countries from across EMEA will compete for this title. We speak with the winners Mary Joy Tandiama from the UAE and Khay Santos from Kuwait to learn more about their awesome experience.
Mary, how long have you been working with Starbucks?
I’ve only been with Starbucks for four months. I work at the Deira City Centre branch.
What do you think of the competition and how you feel about winning the barista championship and representing the MENA region in “EMEA Barista Championship – 2015” in the UK?
It’s a very tough competition that showcases the talent of the baristas. The experience was amazing, but I did not expect to win. I was actually in tears when they announced me as the winner; no words can explain my feelings.
What does it take to be a Barista Champion?
Just be yourself, show your passion and love what you do.
Khay, how long have you been working with Starbucks?
I joined Starbucks two years ago at the Marina Mall branch, and have been there ever since.
What do you think of the competition and how do you feel about winning the MENA barista championship?
It’s an amazing feeling and the competition is a great one! Through the competition, we get to understand the coffee culture of Starbucks.
What does it take to be a Barista Champion?
It takes a lot of courage and passion to be a barista champion; it’s actually a very motivational exercise. It was an overwhelming feeling for an ordinary barista like me and I couldn’t believe that I’d actually won this competition.
How do the Starbucks baristas feel about the Championship?
We had so much fun being a part of this exercise. We enjoyed the Personal Coffee Tasting session, using different brewing methods and pairing those coffees with foods. We also liked the Lucky Dip challenge and evaluating our ‘behind the bar’ skills. We managed to showcase our creativity and imagination during the Signature Beverage round. The Quiz was also a great opportunity to refresh our memories and helped all of us revising our knowledge of all Starbucks-related info.
Mary, how does it feel to carry the MENA Barista Champion title?
It feels great to be rewarded for your commitment and passion. I feel proud being part of the Starbucks family. We all know that a good cup of coffee can change our customers’ days and we enjoy delivering the best beverages which we know that customers are going to enjoy.