Starbucks Barista Champions’ Coffee Craft

A Tall Soy Caramel Macchiato. A Grande Dry Cappuccino. A Venti Nonfat Pumpkin Spice Latte. Each day, Starbucks baristas handcraft thousands of drinks – making sure each one is perfect for every customer.

"We really wanted to celebrate coffee craft and the art that they do every single day," said Chad Moore, manager of Starbucks Global Coffee and Tea Education.

The first Starbucks U.S. Barista Championship was held in 2015 to give baristas the opportunity to showcase their skills and share their passion for beverage quality. Months of competitions for 2016 wrapped up recently with 660 District winners and 82 Area champions who continue to inspire and lead fellow partners in elevating beverage quality and customer connections in their stores.

Showcasing Barista Craft

This year, interested baristas began submitting applications to their store managers in January and crafted a Flat White to demonstrate their skills. Store managers selected one barista to represent each store for the next round of competitions at the District level (a District consists of 10-12 Starbucks stores), which were hosted in Starbucks stores from mid-May through June.

During this round, two judges evaluated baristas on their ability to perfectly prepare and present a Doppio Espresso, Latte Macchiato and Flat White with latte art, all while engaging the audience in an approachable, inspiring way. Competitors also responded to questions from judges that demonstrated leadership in elevating beverage quality and the customer experience in their stores.

“It was amazing and fun to connect with other partners (employees) and to showcase our craft,” said Christen Haddock, a Starbucks barista in Beaverton, Oregon, who participated in the District competition. “I was nervous, but excited to share my story and to hear stories from other partners. We forgot it was a competition, because the atmosphere was so welcoming and positive with everyone clapping and cheering each other on.”

From the District competitions, 660 baristas moved on to the final round of Area-level competitions (an Area is an average of eight Districts). Once again, baristas demonstrated their latte art skills, along with their ability to expertly craft a Latte, Cappuccino, Latte Macchiato and Flat White. Judges evaluated their coffee knowledge and ability to connect with customers.

Shaping Starbucks Culture

“It was invigorating to come together with fellow coffee lovers, which felt less like a competition and more like a celebration of the passion for coffee,” said Kienan Briscoe, a shift supervisor in Kent, Washington, and one of the Area Barista Champions.

When they announced his name as the Area winner, Briscoe felt relieved at first, followed by feeling grateful and humbled by the honor.

“I learned a lot and met a lot of great people," he said. "The whole experience of the Barista Championship reminded me of why I do what I do, and that it’s not just a cup of coffee. It’s what shapes Starbucks culture.”

Watch highlights from the 2016 U.S. Barista Championship from Starbucks Coffee blog, 1912 Pike.

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‘By us and for us:’ New Starbucks merch inspired by LGBTQ+ community