Many of us have a passion for something that reflects who we are. For 26 baristas in Starbucks Europe, Middle East and Africa Region, coffee is a passion that brought them together for the 2016 EMEA Barista Championship in London this month.
“We wanted to celebrate the champions and inspire them to help elevate beverage quality in their stores,” said Annemarie Schipper, Starbucks operations manager, who managed the event. “The atmosphere was electric, where the champions showed everyone what makes them so incredible. Hundreds of partners (employees), family and friends came to show their support.”
Their journey to London began nearly 10 months ago when over 15,000 partners from more than 30 countries applied to compete. After several rounds of competitions, the field was narrowed down to more than two dozen winners from different countries across the region.
For the final competition, a panel of a dozen judges evaluated the champions in these categories:
- Hosting a coffee tasting to demonstrate their coffee knowledge
- Creating a signature beverage from their own recipe
- Preparing a latte, cappuccino, Caramel Macchiato and Flat White while displaying both technical and artistic skills
- Sharing their Starbucks journey and how coffee has impacted their lives
“As a judge, I was looking for the baristas to show an emotional connection to coffee through their craft and to share how their personal journey got them to the pinnacle of their craft,” said Arthur Karuletwa, director of traceability, Starbucks Global Coffee. “Ultimately this is a reflection of the pride they demonstrate every time they hand a beverage to a customer.”
When scores from the final round were tallied, Fabio da Silva Neno, assistant store manager from Portugal, was crowned the 2016 EMEA Barista Champion.
Neno took home the Golden Pitcher trophy and purple EMEA Barista Champion apron, along with his ticket to join partners for an annual trip to a coffee farm in Rwanda. There he’ll see firsthand how coffee is grown and processed, and will meet farmers who produce Starbucks coffee.
“I felt so happy and proud because of how much this will mean to all the partners in Portugal,” said Neno. “It shows that if you really believe in yourself and work hard to share your passion you can achieve anything. I want to inspire other partners and help them realize it’s achievable for them too.”