There could only be one.
Six regional champions, an envelope and a single name inside. The minutes before the result is unveiled are endless, a nerve-wrecking experience hard to describe. Just one word, my name, and I became Starbucks UK Barista Champion 2013. Applause, cheering and tears in the room and a smile on my face.
The Barista Championship has been an amazing experience and all the people I have encountered during this adventure have been most exceptional. The support and help I received in my region and across the country is beyond words.
The adventure began a couple of months ago when the Belfast District heats of the Starbucks Barista Championship were announced and partners in my store suggested I took part. The next round was held in a small store in Glasgow. After an exceptionally fun day I was proclaimed Barista Champion of Northern Ireland, Scotland and North East and got the chance to join the other five Regional Champions on a visit to the Starbucks Roasting Plant in Amsterdam. There we were treated to taste over twenty exclusive coffees and had the opportunity to hand-roast our own blend. One thing I will not forget about the trip is the delicious smell of freshly roasted coffee that stayed on my bag and my clothes for days.
The next stop would be London where I would rejoin the other Regional Champions along with dozens of supporters from across the country for the UK Final. It was a long and intense day, but a very happy one. Nerves and joy in the air, we competed over four disciplines: bar skills, coffee tasting, signature beverage and a coffee quiz. The competition was tough and anyone could have won but in the end hard work and dedication paid off. I must say that the thought getting the first place over five hundred original competitors is quite overwhelming. The best part, I will have the opportunity to go to Origin in September. Being in contact with the land and the people that grow the coffee we love is the perfect end for this fantastic journey.
Back home but not back to reality, greetings and a fantastic welcome from partners in Belfast. In the store, my Manager made sure everybody knew about the victory: the shiny trophy on display and my name in big letters on the community board. Our customers are happy and proud to have the Barista Champion in their local Starbucks. One of our regulars stopped by on her way to work to greet me when she saw me outside; others posted proud comments on social media about having been served by me. The atmosphere in our store is more joyful than ever and I can feel the happiness and the support from everybody around, giving me more energy and more reasons to work harder every day and keep sharing my knowledge and my love for coffee.