Earning the title of Starbucks Barista Champion takes unwavering dedication and a deep love and knowledge of coffee.
Following the success of Starbucks first-ever regional competition in Hong Kong last year, the company hosted its second annual barista championships March 27-28 in Taiwan. Sixteen partners (employees) from 15 Asian markets competed before hundreds of fellow partners, family and friends at the Taipei Marriott Hotel.
Rafael Miguel Bautista, a shift supervisor in the Philippines, took top honors. He was awarded a first-place trophy, state-of-the-art hand brewing equipment and flight and accommodations for three weeks in Seattle, to immerse in coffee and Starbucks heritage.
“I want people to know that this is not just about a championship or recognition,” Bautista said. “Our passion as competitors is driven by the same love for coffee as our farmers. It’s a responsibility and commitment driven by our genuine concern for our community, partners and coffee. We live our mission every day through our love of coffee.”
“While all of our competitors were incredibly impressive in demonstrating accomplished brewing skills, great latte art mastery, immense imagination and splendid customer service, Rafael stood out,” said Major Cohen, Starbucks partner and head judge of the event. “He was gracious, enthusiastic, efficient and when done we could not imagine that his time was up. His was a standout synergistic and impressive performance.”
Justin Metcalf, World Barista Championship head judge and ex-chairman of the World Barista Championship Judge and Certification Committee served as a guest judge for the Starbucks event and joined a panel of coffee experts who work for Starbucks in Asia and the U.S. to assess the performance of the baristas.
“What a thrill to be involved with the Starbucks regional barista championships,” he said. “The partners’ passion, dedication and desire to succeed at the highest level was amazing. Their willingness to learn, absorb feedback and seek out as much information as possible reminds me of the early days of the World Barista Championship. I wish them all the very best in their pursuit of coffee excellence and have been proud to be involved.”
From finalist to champion
Bautista has been with Starbucks for almost three years and joined the company because of his experience as a customer. He was overwhelmed by the genuine service, concern and human connection of the partners who served his coffee and decided Starbucks would be a great place to work. Bautista is a Coffee Master and the current Starbucks Philippines Coffee Ambassador, which means he is the most outstanding coffee expert in the market. Competing in the regional championship was Bautista’s next step in demonstrating his coffee expertise.
“Honestly, I was scared at first to conduct coffee tasting activities because I feared that I did not really understand coffee,” Bautista said. “However, I was inspired to do more tastings because of many inspiring partners and Coffee Masters. I strived to learn more about coffee and I asked my mentors to help me learn more. The next thing I know, I was falling in love with coffee.”
Starbucks will celebrate additional barista champions across the globe in 2017. The company will host the Europe, Middle East and Africa Barista Championships and U.S. Barista Championships later this year.