UAE: When baristas battled it out for supremacy at World of Coffee

Held as part of the World of Coffee conference at Dubai World Trade Center, the competition saw 11 experts from across the country presenting their expertise



by

Nasreen Abdulla

Published: Thu 19 Jan 2023, 6:14 PM

With a centrifuge machine, liquid nitrogen and home-brewed fruit concoction, coffee baristas left no stones unturned to wow judges at the UAE National Barista Competition 2023. Held as part of the World of Coffee conference at Dubai World Trade Center, the competition saw 11 experts from across the country battling it out.

While some were participating for the first time, others were coming back in the hopes of winning the crown. The participants were evaluated on the quality of their drinks, presentation, creativity, technical competence and cleanliness. Aimed to allow baristas to showcase their skills and creativity, the face-off saw some stiff competition.

Emirati Touch

One of the first female Emirati baristas in the country, Nooran Albannay was returning to the competition for the third time. She put up her signature drink which involved putting a shot of coffee in a test tube and putting it in the centrifuge machine for three minutes. Afterwards, she added a fruit brew that she explained to the judges.

She advised judges to swirl the glass 10 times before drinking. The architect-turned-coffee shop owner runs the Abu Dhabi-based Coffee Architecture on Al Saadiyat, Abu Dhabi. “I was not able to win the last two times I participated,” she said. “But this year I listened to my heart and put up a drink that told our story. I showcased how we strive to get better coffee every day at our shop. The last few years, I would listen to the coach or the people around me. I wasn’t trusting myself like I should have. So I am really happy with my performance.”

Through her business Albannay not only brings high quality coffee to the country but also supports farmers from all over the world. “We bring from Ethiopia, Columbia and Yemen,” she said. “Sometimes, we invest in the farmers so that they can get more innovative in their technologies and give us better produce. It is a win-win situation where the entire supply chain benefits.”

A platform

Indonesian airline engineer-turned-barista Hibatul Wafi from Encounter Coffee Roasters used tropical fruit nuts in his coffee that was fermented using a precise procedure. He then used liquid nitrogen to drop the temperature.

“It was a great experience,” said Wafi. “It was challenging but it was an amazing platform to showcase our skills and events like these are a great support to baristas for refining their craft.”

Watching him in the audience was the farmer from whom he buys coffee Columbian Wilton Benitez (pictured below on left). It was Benitez’s first visit to Dubai, and he said he was happy to be in the country to showcase his trade.

“The coffee industry needs to develop more because a lot of coffee producers don’t use the right machine or recipe and that affects the quality of coffee,” he said. “I am trying to raise awareness about this. For example, weather plays a huge role in farming coffee. If you can study weather, then you take various measures to ensure that you get good quality coffee each time.”

Improving quality

One of the toughest jobs of the event belonged to the judges. Evaluating contestants on various factors, the team watched closely and made several notes as the baristas presented their drinks.

The competition was judged by a panel of experts

One of them, Stavros Lamprinidis, has been in the coffee industry since 1990 and has been a judge at several barista competitions around the world. “Every year, I have seen the quality of competitors in the UAE improving,” he said. “Last year’s winner was the runner up at the world barista championship. I am very proud of the job that they are doing here.”

According to Lamprinidis, one of the aspects that competitors are judged on involves the movement of the baristas while making coffee. “We watch them very carefully,” he said. “They should make coffee with minimal waste. The taste should be balanced and hit the right notes. I think all the competitors did very well today. I think the decision is going to be tough."

nasreen@khaleejtimes.com


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