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What makes great coffee

Filipino female barista to represent the Philippines in regional finals of Barista of the Year competition in Dubai

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Text and images by Angelo G. Garcia

THE BATTLE OF THE BEST BARISTA: A very focused Gwyneth Gabay during the Espresso Race

THE BATTLE OF THE BEST BARISTA: A very focused Gwyneth Gabay during the Espresso Race

While making coffee looks like easy work, it’s not at all. Technically, baristas need to learn a lot, from how to properly grind coffee beans to operating an espresso machine.

For Costa Coffee, it takes pride, passion, and personality to be a good barista. The UK-based coffee chain’s vision is to be the best coffee brand in the world and its mission  is to “save the world from mediocre coffee.” Its love of great coffee starts with its highly trained baristas.

It takes 35 days to train new recruits and it takes more days than that for them to learn more than just how to make a cup of coffee. Costa Coffee baristas are such coffee authorities they can tell whether or not an espresso is good just by looking at it.

Finalists Gerardo Golong, Gwyneth Gabay, and Joseph Palmiano with judges and Costa Philippines officers VP for procurement Mark Tausiongkun, operations manager  Jennifer San Antonio, and general manager Faith Lim

Finalists Gerardo Golong, Gwyneth Gabay, and Joseph Palmiano with judges and Costa Philippines officers VP for procurement Mark Tausiongkun, operations manager Jennifer San Antonio, and general manager Faith Lim

“The crema (froth) should be a minimum of three millimeters, no bubbles, should be hazelnut brown. There’s also ‘tiger striping’ in the crema, and the cup should be spotless,” says Costa coffee barista Justin dela Fuente.

Justin was the winner of the local Barista of the Year (BOTY) 2016. He represented the Philippines in the global competition in the UK after winning in the regional finals in Singapore. His “speciality” drink also impressed the competition head judge and Costa’s coffee master Gennaro Pellicia. This year, he was  among the judges in the BOTY held last month in the Philippines.

Launched in 2006, the annual competition gathers the finest baristas across the globe to compete in London. It is on its third year in the Philippines. This year, the winner of the local competition is Gwyneth Gabay from the One World Place branch. She will compete in the regional finals in Dubai, UAE this November.

Gwyneth Gabay's winning drink, Rose spiced iced latte

Gwyneth Gabay’s winning drink, Rose spiced iced latte

During the finals, she beat colleagues Joseph Palmiano and Gerardo Golong, who finished second and third respectively. Gwyneth won the judges over with her speciality drink, the Rose Spiced Iced Latte. Inspired by the Panagbenga Festival, it is the combination of espresso, rose syrup, milk, and cinnamon.

“I graduated in Baguio and had my first job there. I love Baguio City. The drink brings back memories of my childhood, playing with flowers when I was kid. I also really like spices and I collect herbs and spices,” explains the barista, who hails from Isabela.

Aside from the Speciality Challenge, the baristas underwent two other segments in the competition. One was the Technical Challenge, which tested their skills on preparing four core drinks—espresso, cappuccino, latte, and flat white. The last part of the contest was the Espresso Race, which had each participant making as many good espresso shots as possible in two minutes.

Gwyneth found the “grind and dose” part of the competition to be particularly challenging. A barista needs to know the consistency of the ground coffee just by touch. After winning the contest, she admitted that she was nervous and excited at the same time, but overall she was happy. She also confessed that she was under immense pressure having to represent the Philippines on the international level.

Justin, however, advised that Gwyneth should just enjoy the competition, despite the pressure. It’s all part of the game.

“You just have to enjoy everything, the pressure, stress, exhaustion.They are all part of it. Because when you enjoy, everything comes natural. When everything’s natural, you perform better and give your best,” he said.

 

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