Barista champion Bartek Kusmierz on bringing Starbucks and specialty together
Bartek Kusmierz was 19 when he scooped the title of Starbucks Barista Champion 2018 for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
Kusmierz, who is from Hemel Hempstead, won the top award out of 28 National Barista Champions. He explains how a part-time job while studying has become a passion.
How did you get into coffee and what made you want to become a coffee professional?
I was looking for a part-time job because I was studying medical science. I had worked in a restaurant and really enjoyed making the lattes and the flat whites. Then a Starbucks opened near me in Hemel Hempstead and I applied for a job and it started there. It was going to be a part-time job, for three days a week making coffee, as a way to pay for my car and my car insurance.
From the beginning we are taught about coffee culture on the ‘first slurp’. My manager told me that I would be able to taste citrus and Blackcurrant in this cup of coffee from Kenya. I thought to myself how is that possible? Then I thought wow this is incredible and was really inspired. I completed my training to become a barista and my store manager, at the time, gave me a coffee master journal and said I believe you can do this. I became a coffee master and then the barista championships began. I thought I couldn’t do it because I was not really good enough yet. But my store manager just said 'go for it'.
I went for it and somehow I won the district level, the regionals, regional finals and somehow I won the national UK final. I got the chance to represent the UK at the finals in Amsterdam and somehow I manage to win that as well.
What has been the proudest moment in your career so far?
This was when I was in Rwanda. At Starbucks, we do a coffee at home event, where money raised is used to help farmers back in origin. I went to a coffee farm, where they had the community centre, and on the side of the building it said ‘Funded by Starbucks’. That coffee helped to build that community centre. To go to this coffee farm and see the impact that we are able to have was incredible. That made me proud to work for Starbucks.
What are the challenges being faced by the coffee market?
The average age of a coffee farmer is 55 years old. There is a real threat that the younger generations will not want to proceed in coffee production
Secondly, coffee rust has been destroying coffee trees. In 2013, Starbucks opened a farm in Costa Rica that is dedicated to looking into coffee rust and coming up with hybrid trees that are resistant to the disease. Everything that we learn is open source and is shared with farmers around the world.
You are showcasing at the Barista Masterclasses at European Coffee, Tea & Soft Drinks Expo. What made you want to become involved?
After I won the barista championships, the Expo reached out to me. I thought it was a great thing to help one another. Normally specialty coffee and Starbucks are quite apart and it is good that I can bring Starbucks into the specialty coffee industry.
I am really excited to share what Starbucks does as a company because we don’t talk loudly about it.
- Bartek Kusmierz will be hosting a session at the Barista Masterclass on Tuesday, 21 May at 1.45pm.
- VA Machinery is the coffee machine and grinder sponsor of the Barista Masterclasses.
- Brita is also exhibiting on stand A15 in addition to co-sponsoring the Barista Masterclass.
- Lavazza is the official coffee sponsor for the Barista Masterclasses and will be exhibiting on stand D22 at European Coffee, Tea & Soft Drinks Expo.
- Coffee Bay is the equipment supplier for the Barista Masterclasses and will be exhibiting on stand F26
- Stephen Leighton, founder of Hasbean Coffee,will be co-hosting the Barista and Roastery Masterclasses
- Glebe Farm is the oat drink providers for the Barista and Roastery Masterclasses and will be exhibiting on stand B8
- Brades Farm is the milk provider for the Barista and Roastery Masterclasses and is exhibiting on stand D36.
- For more information on European Coffee, Tea & Soft Drinks Expo, contact Sukhvir Hayre on +44 (0) 203 668 9809 or email email@example.com.
- Visitor registration is now open for the European Coffee, Tea & Soft Drinks Expo. For FREE fast-track entry click here.
- The Barista Masterclasses will take place at European Coffee, Tea & Soft Drinks Expo held at London’s Olympia on 21 to 22 May 2019.