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Clearing the fray

The road to being named Starbucks Barista Champion begins today
  • The Starbucks baristas who will battle today at Starbucks Palmdale to try to be among the final two for the opportunity to compete for the Starbucks Barista Champion 2017 title. STARBUCKS

Guardian Lifestyles Editor

Published: Jun 16, 2017

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A great latte is a perfect balance of milk and espresso. But when a barista is able to incorporate latte art — like a heart or a leaf — into their latte-making artistry … well that just adds a little something extra to your latte drinking experience. This year Starbucks is turning up the heat on their baristas with a twist to their Starbucks Barista 2017 competition. Instead of the focus on coffee knowledge and competency, as had been the case in the previous two years with a sprinkling of latte art thrown in for fun last year, this year the competition will be heavy on latte art, perfectly composed drinks and the customer experience.

“While coffee knowledge and passion is a huge part of Starbucks’ culture, there are very few instances where [baristas] can display their expertise. But every single day they interact with customers and make beverages, so we wanted to highlight the most common aspects essential to a barista — the connection around the beverage,” said Dion Miller, Starbucks operations. “We changed it up, because the customer connection and beverage making is more prevalent.”

Baristas will have to present a special customer service experience that they were a part of.

The latte art throwdown, a new feature, he expects to be exciting as baristas will have to make drinks and design drinks with foam which he says should be “cool”.

Taking to the bar today at Starbucks Palmdale and looking to advance through to the final set for Friday, June 30 will be Tariq Cartwright (Starbucks Baha Mar Casino), Nelson Symonette (Starbucks NAD), Damian Brown (Starbucks Palmdale), Shawnell Clarke (Starbucks Kiosk), Erica Miller (Starbucks NAD), Lenice Winters (Starbucks NAD), Monet Moncur (Starbucks Charlotte Street), and Terrance Perigord (Starbucks Harbour Bay).

Cartwright’s favorite coffee is the Café Verona. His favorite beverage is an iced shaken green tea lemonade with almond and coconut syrup.

Symonette counts the French Roast as his favorite coffee. His favorite beverage is a chai tea latte.

Pike’s Place is Brown’s favorite coffee. And the white chocolate mocha with chai syrup is his favorite beverage.

Clarke’s favorite coffee is the French Roast. The iced white mocha is her favorite beverage.

Miller’s favorite coffee is Sumatra. Her favorite beverage is a white mocha.

Kenya is Winters’ favorite coffee. Her favorite beverage is a cinnamon dolce chai tea latte.

Moncur’s favorite coffee is the Breakfast Blend. Her favorite beverage is a strawberry coconut green tea lemonade.

The Kati Kati is Perigord’s favorite coffee. His favorite beverage is an iced venti coconut white mocha.

The barista who will eventually emerge victorious out of the heap will win an international, foreign trip, the location of which is being kept under wraps this year but will be known by the final.

Joshua Rolle, the Starbucks Barista Champion 2016, the second person to be crowned barista champion, won a trip to Colombia where he visited a Starbucks farm, the mountains where coffee is grown, engaged in a coffee bean-picking experience, interacted with partners that work at farms, and participated in extensive training and study with persons who work for the Starbucks support centers which allowed him to gain firsthand information and knowledge.

Steven Hepburn, the first winner, was the Starbucks Barista Champion 2015. His prize was a trip to Seattle where he visited the Starbucks Support Center (headquarters) and iconic Starbucks locations such as the first store in Pike Place Market and the Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room.

Prior to the championship, baristas are put through vigorous training to prepare to compete. Rolle, who will be handing over his crown, has been coaching his peers and preparing them for what to expect.

And while the previous two years Rolle said going in he’s had an idea as to which baristas would emerge in the final and possibly win it all, he said this year it’s tough because all the competitors are good.

The Barista Championship semifinals take place today at Starbucks Palmdale between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.; the final is set for Friday, June 30 at Starbucks Palmdale between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.

Miller encourages people to support their favorite barista, who will represent their favorite store in the competition, and to partake of the treats, prizes and trinkets to be given away. A deejay will entertain during the festivities.

“It’s going to be a fun atmosphere, so bring your family, cheer your favorite barista and favorite store. Come celebrate and enjoy this time with us and the baristas,” said Miller.



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