Starbucks EMEA Barista Champion Inspires ‘Limitless Coffee Passion’

“I want this championship to inspire partners in Turkey and encourage limitless coffee passion,” said Gürkan Kumak, a Starbucks barista who worked in the world of finance before changing careers three years ago.

Kumak is the 2015 winner of Starbucks EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa) Barista Championships. He was one of 21 national barista champions from Starbucks® stores throughout the region who took part in a two-day competition (August 20, 21) at the Old Truman Brewery in London.

“The idea behind the championships is to celebrate what our baristas do every day,” said Chad Moore, manager, Starbucks Global Coffee and Tea Education. “They have a chance to demonstrate their passion and pride for coffee and showcase their skills.”

Recognizing 'true artists'

Baristas competed in three categories: Barista Craft, Signature Beverage and Personal Coffee Tastings. Baristas showcased their latte art skills, created their own signature beverage using ingredients that currently exist in Starbucks® stores and presented a coffee tasting of their choosing. The tasting may include a food pairing, music or any other sensory experience that enhances the coffee experience.

“With the Barista Championships, we are elevating our partners and celebrating their craft,” Moore added. “It’s so rewarding to see them recognized as true artists.”

The atmosphere at the EMEA completion was described as “electric," with over 400 partners, friends and family showing their support. The event included on-stage conversations with Tim Scharrer, Starbucks director of Global Coffee buying; the 2014 Barista Champion, Laura Hughes; and Arthur Karuletwa, Starbucks director of Global Traceability.

Along with Kumak, finalists included:

Mary Joy - a barista from United Arab Emirates and six-month Starbucks partner. “Because of Starbucks, the passion in my heart comes out,” she said. “It’s up to us as partners to let customers feel the love we have for coffee.”

Gabriella Höglund – a Starbucks shift supervisor who works in Stockholm, Sweden. “New relationships are created over coffee every day. We make connections,” she said. “Share love, spread happiness and inspire others.”

Sam Henderson – a Starbucks store manager in the U.K. “Coffee is someone’s life’s work in your hands. We have a tremendous responsibility,” he said. “Take a heartbeat. Take a second. Even in the rush, that’s what creates a perfect beverage.”

And the winner is...

The 2015 Barista Champion is the assistant manager of Starbucks Akasya store in Istanbul, Turkey. “Starbucks is my family,” said Kumak. “I entered this competition to inspire partners in Turkey and across the whole of EMEA.”

Another goal of Kumak's is to master the craft of hand-roasting coffee.

Starbucks has recognized baristas and their beverage artistry through Barista Championships in Europe and across the China Asia Pacific region for the past few years. And, for the first time, Starbucks will hold the first 2015 U.S. Barista Championships in September.

The barista champions will share their coffee knowledge and skills with fellow partners, customers and the media.

Globally, Starbucks baristas handcraft beverages for 75 million customers each week in more than 22,000 stores.

thumbnail for New, more sustainable Starbucks cold cups are made with up to 20 percent less plastic

New, more sustainable Starbucks cold cups are made with up to 20 percent less plastic