Coffee Champion

October 16, 2019

UCen Starbucks Student Employee Competes in Barista Competition

A UCen Starbucks student employee participated in the 2019 Starbucks Southern California Area Barista Championship and WON! 

The winning barista, Miriam Perez, is a Global Studies/Sociology double major and began working at UCen Starbucks in January 2018. With no previous coffee experience, Miriam was bit by the coffee bug during her training week. “She was fascinated by the global aspects of coffee and asked a lot of questions about coffee production,” explains store manager, Bobby Mireles. Within a few weeks, Miriam was learning latte art from her more experienced co-workers and by watching YouTube videos. Not long after that, Miriam began posting her evolving latte art on her Instagram page.

The Starbucks Barista Championship is comprised of three levels of competition: In-house; District; and Area. Mireles hosted the in-house portion of the competition in April. As this was the first year UCen Starbucks participated, he created a prize package for the winner that included a giant-sized $100 check and gift cards for the UCSB Campus Store. Three UCen Starbucks baristas competed, with the rest of the employees there to cheer for their favorite. The in-house competition required participants to prepare Starbucks drinks and to describe various elements of coffee, including different roast styles; components of espresso; and proper milk aeration.

After winning the in-store competition, Miriam won the second-level District competition for licensed stores between San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara. Part of the competition required her to lead a coffee tasting with a coffee of her choice. Miriam presented a Single-Origin Sumatra, a coffee particularly special to her because “it comes from Indonesia, a place I have traveled to and experienced during a really special time in my life,” she comments.

On June 29, Miriam competed in the final Area competition in Los Angeles. Of the original 300 licensed-store competitors, just six competed in Los Angeles, including Miriam. The competition included “craft”preparation—and “connect”—storytelling—elements, judged over three sections: Barista Craft, Coffee Tasting, and Latte Art Throw-Down. Miriam prepared Starbucks drink recipes and a scripted coffee tasting experience for the judges using the pour-over coffee brewing method and describing the coffee’s origin and flavor profile. Miriam’s superior latte art won her the Latte Throw-Down portion of the competition, for which she was awarded a plaque and a coffee plant.

Mireles is proud of Miriam and feels the win reflects the high standards he holds for quality product and customer service. “Participating in the competition increased the teamwork aspect of the store, and helped the staff see the kinds of things they are capable of doing” with coffee preparation and service. Reflecting on her job as a barista, Miriam comments, “My favorite aspect about working at UCen Starbucks is how interactive our job is; it goes beyond making coffee. I think working at this location specifically is awesome because I get to interact with students, professors, TAs, and other University employees… you feel like a part of a larger family.”   

By Krista Fritzen

Bobby Mireles, Miriam Perez & Cisco Celis