Behind the scenes at the Milan Roastery for the 2022 Barista Championships

Over the past 51 years, Starbucks has been dedicated to coffee leadership and innovation – celebrating great coffee and the human connection that comes with it.

Each year, partners from over 4,000 stores across Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) epitomise the Starbucks Experience at the annual EMEA Barista Championships.

Seeking to identify the leading barista talent, partners compete against each other in a months-long span of extensive coffee challenges to be crowned the 2022 Barista Champion. And where better to do so than at the heart of Starbucks coffee journey – the Starbucks® Reserve Roastery in Milan, the city that inspired the iconic Starbucks Experience and Starbucks first store in Italy.

This year's 2022 finalists in front of the Roastery’s striking Siren statue - the symbol of Starbucks, but here, steeped in classical lore, completely hand-carved in Carrara marble by Tuscan sculptor Giovanni Balderi
(From L-R: Ireland's Richard McKeever, Austria's Julius Gradavsky, UK's Fraser Gold, UAE's Fiona Villarete, France's Alexandre Fleurentin, Spain's Victor Nascimento, Germany's Niko Krhkanko, Italy's Veronika Lepichova, Czech Republic's Vendy Panchartkova, South Africa's Phuti Mmotla)

Here, coffee heritage and innovation take centre stage against a backdrop of stunning design and immersive discovery, serving as a place where Italian customers can come to discover the art and science of coffee in a breath-taking environment that is both an homage to the city of Milan and a celebration of everything Starbucks has learned about coffee in its 51-year history.

Before heading to the Roastery for the first day of the finals, the champions took a quick city tour, stopping by the famous torino mosiac for a spin of good luck – legend has it that if you twist around on the spot of the dancing bull mosiac three times, it will bring you good fortune!

Richard McKeever from Ireland taking a lucky spin on the traditional dancing bull "torino" mosiac

Next stop was none other than the Camparino Bar – a historic, authentically Milanese haunt, dripping in belle époque detail and complete with a carved wooden bar – where Howard Schultz had a coffee on the terrace during his first trip to Milan in 1983, and in that moment, had the idea of ​​opening his own coffee bars offering the very same quality and friendliness he had experienced in Italy.

Here, our ten finalists showed the bar's team their impressive coffee craft skills on the espresso machine, before trying their hand at making a classic Campari spritz.

Camparino in Galleria - Milan's most celebrated bar
2021's Barista Champion Cynthia Khattar from Lebanon, alongside Ireland's Richard McKeever, Spain's Victor Nascimento, France's Alexandre Fleurentin, South Africa's Phuti Mmotla, and 2019 winner Teddy Nzama, also from South Africa
Czech Republic's Vendy Panchartkova and Austria's Julius Gradavsky at the Camparino bar
Starbucks EMEA President Duncan Moir and Breanne Jesionowski at the Camparino bar
2021's winner Cynthia Khattar from Lebanon making her first Campari Spritz in the Camparino bar - a signature Milanese aperitif

And then it was on to the Roastery itself, a 25,000 square-foot space which offers customers unprecedented visibility to all aspects of the craft and science of Starbucks coffee, as well as acting as a complete innovation centre for developing the coffee beverages of tomorrow.

Each of the finalists names were up in lights, Roastery-style, on the store's stock exchange-inspired clacker board, designed as a reference to the building's previous function when it was used by the Italian Stock Exchange, Borsa Italiana.

Each of the ten finalists for 2022 on the Milan Roastery's bright green clacker board - a tribute to the store's former Italian stock exchange history
Vendy Panchartkova, from the Czech Republic, enjoying the first coffee tasting of the day

The inspiration for the Roastery’s design focuses on the intersection of this heritage and innovation, presenting a fully transparent, 360-degree look into the roasting and manufacturing process, where guests can walk around the entirety of the equipment, from the roaster to the cooling tray, de-gassing chamber and packing line, before seeing the finished beans packaged up for distribution all across Europe.

As you step inside the roastery, you're greeted by an AR wall that lets you explore Starbucks coffee and history via your mobile phone

Expanding Starbucks Third Place even further out of the physical space and into the digital world is an floor-to-ceiling bronze crafted wall, that customers can scan for an interactive, augmented reality experience. Visually representing Starbucks history and its coffee, the wall itself was engraved in brass by local craftsmen, and emphasises the community connection that Starbucks has always created.

For two days, the ten finalists from Spain, Czech Republic, Italy, France, Ireland, South Africa, Austria, Germany, UAE and the UK have been battling it out in the Roastery in a series of different competition rounds. And the wait is almost over...