Coffee Ambassador on Tour

Laurence in drive thru

One of the great things about being the Starbucks UK & Ireland Coffee Ambassador is that I get to visit stores and meet partners (other Starbucks employees) across the country. This week I jetted off to Manchester and Leeds and met some of Starbucks very talented Baristas.

First stop was our new Barton Dock Drive Thru store outside the Trafford Centre in Manchester. Yes, we do have Drive Thru stores! There I met the store manager Mark and his team.

Rachel, the store Coffee Master put on an amazing coffee tasting session. The selection included freshly brewed coffee from Guatemala, Kenya and Sumatra and was accompanied with various nuts, fruits, cheeses and even cigar tobacco. Rachel chatted with her customers, demonstrating her coffee expertise by helping them discover which flavours and coffees they liked.

It was then time for me to put on a set of headphones and see firsthand how the drive thru experience worked. It’s not the easiest thing to do! Hearing customers order in your ear along with the conversations the baristas are having with their customers can be confusing but the team still gave every customer genuine world class service.

Next stop was Leeds where I was taken round several stores by Becky, the Leeds District Coffee Master and Jill, the Regional Coffee Master. I was invited to attend a meeting of District Coffee Masters and talk about my visit to Tanzania. This gave me an opportunity to highlight how important it is that all Starbucks partners treat every drink they make with care. It is vital that we respect the coffee and all the people who have invested time and effort into ensuring that only the highest quality Arabica coffee is sourced, harvested, roasted and finally served in our stores.

The highlight of the trip was attending the North England Regional Barista Championship Grand Final. Ten amazing baristas had battled their way through store and district heats to get to the final and their challenge was to create a unique Starbucks drink.

Jane Coleman the Regional Director, Chris Claud Day Regional Coffee Master for Scotland and North East England and I had the unenviable task of judging the finals and I have to say it was a very tough decision.

Starbucks happiness

The criteria that each finalist had to consider were creativity, taste, appeal and how ready they would be to launch the drink in store. The passion, enthusiasm and creativity of the 10 finalists were simply inspirational. Recipe cards were created alongside posters, history lessons in coffee, personal inspiration and contempory twists on famous food items such as the Bakewell Pudding. We even had a fully produced advert!

The winner in the end was James Allen from the North Concourse store in Leeds station with his new take on a classic recipe – ‘The Penny Spiced’. This was a full bodied freshly brewed coffee with spicy notes. James used Christmas Blend with its unique addition of rare aged Sumatran beans infusing it with cinnamon, nutmeg, fresh ginger and honey to produced a delicious drink based on an old recipe that dates back to the 1700s.

In a year that Starbucks celebrates its 40th Anniversary and looks back at our heritage of serving the finest freshly brewed coffee whilst looking forward to the natural evolution of our brand, it seemed fitting that a drink which embodied the history of coffee whilst giving it a modern feel had to be the winner. Congratulations to James.