As the warm midday heat envelops the roastery on a particularly sunny October day in Milan - Ottobrata, as the Italians call it - Milanese locals and Starbucks partners alike gathered in the city's iconic Roastery for the EMEA Barista Championship Final 2022.
The city that inspired Starbucks, ten finalists from stores all across Europe, the Middle East and Africa have spent the past two days competing in complex coffee challenges to be crowned this year's winner, and just moments ago, Phuti Mmotla was announced the 2022 champion.
After whittling down the national champions to a final three, Phuti beat out Fiona from UAE and Veronika from Italy for the top spot, surrounded by runners-up Richard McKeever from Ireland, Julius Gradavsky from Austria, Fraser Gold from the UK, Alexandre Fleurentin from France, Victor Nascimento from Spain, Niko Krhkanko from Germany, and Vendy Panchartkova from the Czech Republic.
The best barista in 42 markets, Phuti and his fellow finalists were put through their paces to test their knowledge and ability of all things coffee.
First, a coffee tasting and presentation, taking the judges through their favourite coffee, its tasting notes, origin, and what it means to them.
Next, a latte art throwdown, as each finalist went head to head steaming milk and presenting their own personal milk patterns, which saw Veronika from Italy master the seahorse, and Fiona from the UAE opt for a tulip to show off her trademark design.
Finally, onto the signature beverage round, where each contestant developed their very own, coffee-first Starbucks beverage. Fraser from the UK presented an Autumnal apple and cinnamon Frappuccino, Niko from Germany designed an intriguing mix of fruit and coffee with a perfectly paired Peach Sunset Cold Brew that offered just the right amount of sweetness, while Veronika from Italy introduced a fresh Citrus Cold Brew with lime for a pop of sourness, inspired by the Italian aperitivo.
A dairy-free, iced-forward take on Starbucks popular Cappuccino, Richard developed a beautifully textured Espresso Foam Cold Brew, turning the coffee into a light, airy but flavourful foam, topped on a base of slightly sweet soy milk.
A drink inspired by her Philippines heritage, current home in the UAE and with an Italian twist, Fiona created a cool, but spicy macchiato-based drink. Alex from France used coconut milk, strawberry acai, chai tea and a shot of espresso to create his Sun-Chai, while Victor from Spain made a white mocha-cased strawberry cream coffee using Blonde Roast, combining his favourite roast with his favourite Spanish dessert - fresas con crema.
Vendy's summer lemon cold brew creation was the perfect antidote to the current Ottobrata Romana, Julius from Austria based his own creation on traditional local cuisine, with a luxurious Viennese Iced Coffee, while champion Phuti chose a coconut biscuit cold brew, based on one of his favourite childhood memories.
After each finalist had presented their drinks, it was time for the judges to deliberate, and nominate their top three for 2022: Phuti from South Africa, Fiona from UAE, and Veronika from Italy. Minutes later, Duncan Moir opened the golden envelope to announce Starbucks EMEA's 2022 Barista Champion... South Africa's Phuti Mmotla.
And what better way to celebrate, than with the winning prize - a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Rwanda on Starbucks Origin Experience. Visiting the coffee farms, meeting our producers, learning about sustainability, and discovering how the beans are processed, bringing together those who grow coffee and those who sell, serve it