Meet Four Starbucks partners reaching their personal bests through their passion for coffee

A coffee newbie turned Regional Barista Champion; a barista who became a district manager; a regional latte art coach who shares her love of coffee; and a Regional Coffee Stories Champion who now shares her coffee knowledge online: meet four Starbucks partners reaching new heights through their passion for coffee.

Yong: A love for coffee that has carried her around the world

When Nopparat Arpornsuwan, known as “Yong,” started working at Starbucks Thailand in 2002, her favorite beverage was hot chocolate. But her passion for coffee was sparked when she experienced her first coffee tasting through a fellow barista’s demonstration instore. “My first coffee love was a Caffe Verona pairing with a chocolate fudge brownie,” she says.

Since then, Yong’s love for coffee has grown, and through her passion and dedication in crafting the perfect cup for customers, she has progressed from part-time barista to District Coffee Master and became the district manager of the Langsuan-Chidlom area. In 2016, she took up the challenge to participate at the Regional Barista Championship in Hong Kong, where she won against competition from across the Asia Pacific region to be crowned Regional Barista Champion.

Yong was determined to make Thailand proud through her coffee craft. “The Championship was my first business trip abroad, and I wanted to show everyone my culture, and how there’s been a smile at every step of my coffee-making journey,” says Yong.

As Asia Pacific’s barista champion, Yong was invited to Seattle to experience working as a barista at the original Starbucks Pike Place store, and visited the Starbucks Reserve Roastery. “It was a dream come true to share my coffee craft with our partners and customers in Seattle,” says Yong. “I miss them every day!”

Sharing her passion for coffee is now a big part of her life. Yong now invites partners on coffee journeys through sharing her knowledge and skills on coffee craftmanship, inspiring partners the same way she was inspired in the beginning. Her advice to aspiring baristas: “Come and explore the world of coffee. Leave your comfort zone and experience new things like I did in the Barista Championship. You have no idea how far your coffee journey could take you.”

Miguel: A flourishing career shaped by his passion for coffee

“I have been here for eight years, starting when I was only 21,” says Miguel Bautista from Starbucks Philippines. “My journey guided me as I matured in life.”

Like Yong, Miguel’s coffee journey started from the very beginning. He came to Starbucks because he trusted the brand and saw it as a leader in the Philippines, not because he loved coffee or knew much about it. “I just thought I needed a job, and might as well work for a brand that I trust,” he says.

Miguel has never been more nervous than on his first day with the company. But his attention was quickly taken by the way partners worked with each other and interacted with customers. After witnessing that, he says “I knew I had made the right choice.” His curiosity developed as he learned from his colleagues, particularly his mentor, the District Manager.

Fast-forward to the present day, and Miguel is now a Coffee Master, and Coffee Ambassador of Starbucks Philippines.

And only three years after joining as a part-time barista, Miguel won the first Starbucks Philippines Barista Championship, in 2017. When he entered the competition, he didn’t think he would be able to deliver, but his district manager supported him every step of the way.

“When they announced me as the winner, I didn’t know how to feel. I didn’t realize what winning meant until my family and colleagues greeted me back at the airport.” They had made a banner congratulating him. “It made me so emotional to know my story touched the hearts of so many people. It inspired me even more,” says Miguel.

Since winning, his passion for coffee has grown and grown. Miguel has helped train partners, opened Reserve stores, and met customers from different places who were inspired by his story.
And alongside that coffee journey, Miguel has grown in his role and responsibilities. He’s progressed from barista to barista trainer, to shift supervisor, to store manager trainee. He now aspires to become a district manager.

Reflecting on his time with Starbucks Miguel says, “My Starbucks journey is the best I have ever had. My experiences have helped me to look at the beauty in everything. Believe in yourself despite the challenges that may seem hard to overcome.”

Evelyn: Learning and growing through competition

Evelyn Chiu from Taiwan always tells aspiring baristas, “You don’t have to be great to start, but you do have to start to be great.”

In her time with Starbucks, Evelyn has been inspired to improve her coffee skills through competitions, and is now passionate about sharing latte art. For her, Starbucks is a place where you can thrive and develop your skills.

Evelyn joined Starbucks as a barista in 2018. Her enthusiasm for coffee grew as she learned on the job, and met more people through coffee. “I had a lot of questions of coffee at first,” she says. “I found that the more I learned about coffee, the more attractive it became to me.”

The passion and enthusiasm of other partners also inspired her, and the results are clear. She became a supervisor within a year of joining. The next year she became a Coffee Master.

In 2021, Evelyn was crowned the Starbucks Taiwan Latte Art Champion. She’s trained contestants from Taiwan for Latte Art competitions, and was a special judge for the Singapore Latte Art Throwdown, an experience she calls, “unforgettable”.

The competitions have been fun experiences for Evelyn, but above all, they’ve been opportunities to learn and grow. “From my first competition onwards, I have had the mindset that I want to test my skills. Competitions have always been a way to enhance my abilities.”

Evelyn has also converted her friends and family into coffee enthusiasts: her mom now enjoys different roasts, and her friend is now experimenting too. “It feels like a real accomplishment when I help people love and understand coffee.”

She also shares her passion by conducting online lectures about latte art, and has become the region’s latte art coach. "Every day is busy, but also fulfilling,” she says.

Evelyn’s next ambition is even greater: “I want to stand on the world stage of latte art.”

Shafiqah: Challenging herself by learning every day

Shafiqah from Singapore educates customers and partners about coffee using social media – for example sharing information about ethical sourcing on YouTube.

That meant pushing herself always be learning – something she’s continued in her current role. “As a barista, I continuously seek out coffee knowledge. If I learn something that I did not know before, I share it with other partners.”

In 2021, she won the Title of Regional Coffee Stories Champion. “It was a great honor and pleasure for me to be able to represent my partners in Singapore and make them proud,” she says. “I joined the competition as the theme of sustainability resonates with what I believe strongly about, which is to leave a legacy behind for future generations.”

She shared her coffee passion by hosting a coffee tasting for partners from the Asia Pacific region. It’s something she believes motivated more partners to enter coffee competitions. She is also continuing to inspire others as a guest judge for Starbucks Singapore competitions.

Shafquah’s next goal is to win a spot or even a title at the National Coffee Competition. That means she’s spending even more time immersing herself in the world of coffee. “Coffee has so much more going on behind it than meets the eye”, she says.

“With a wider audience, I hope to make coffee more accessible and enable more people to appreciate and learn about it.”

She tells aspiring baristas to challenge themselves by being open to continuous learning. “There is so much to know about coffee that the learning does not stop. The connection people have with coffee is so magical. Nothing beats it.”

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Starbucks Reserve® Roastery Tokyo marks 5th anniversary