HomeSmart LivingStarbucks National Barista Championship 2023: Bloemfontein's Thapelo Reigns Supreme

Starbucks National Barista Championship 2023: Bloemfontein’s Thapelo Reigns Supreme

Starbucks South Africa held its annual National Barista Championship at Starbucks Paarden Eiland, Cape Town. This year’s competition took a thrilling twist, as 7 Starbucks District Champions competed against each other, representing various corners of South Africa, including the bustling cityscape of Johannesburg, the picturesque shores of Cape Town, and the vibrant streets of Durban.

These 7 champions faced the awe-inspiring task of defeating over 400 of Starbucks South Africa’s finest baristas spread across the nation. The true test of their craft and expertise unfolded as they navigated through the rounds of this challenging competition, showcasing their unparalleled skills and passion for the art of coffee. The crowd witnessed remarkable displays of artistry, creativity, and precision in every mesmerizing pour, leaving no doubt that the future of coffee in South Africa is in truly talented hands.

The event culminated in a ‘leader pitch’ outlining their vision to develop the brand, promote a coffee culture and develop partners. This presentation was made to a distinguished panel of Starbucks SA judges, including the current reigning Starbucks International Barista Champion.

With two worthy and inseparable contenders tying for the title, the final decision rested on a sudden-death latte art showdown, where Thapelo Nkanyane from Starbucks Mimosa Mall, Bloemfontein showed exceptional skills and creativity, clinching the prestigious title as the National Barista Champion for 2023.

Outperforming the 6 other district champions, Thapelo’s outstanding skill, knowledge, and innovation in coffee preparation shone through in a series of challenges including personal favourite coffee tastings and storytelling, knowledge of ethical sourcing and general coffee facts, latte art showcases and beverage innovations.

Speaking about his win, Thapelo said, “This journey has been remarkable. Being crowned as the winner is a dream come true.”

In October, Thapelo will represent South Africa at the EMEA Barista Championship in London, where he will be up against 43 super-skilled Starbucks baristas from across the Starbucks EMEA markets. Despite the expected high-pressure environment, Thapelo expressed confidence thanks to his dedication to hard work, detailed preparation and the support of his colleagues and mentors.

Thapelo has also been rewarded with a trip to one of the many Starbucks roasting plants, in Amsterdam, where he will learn first-hand about Starbucks’ ethical sourcing practices, quality processes and standards, coffee roasting and innovation processes.

When asked about how he plans to showcase South Africa’s unique coffee culture and flavours, Thapelo commented, “Coffee is a language that connects a guest and a barista, bringing unity to nations. In South Africa, we take pride in cherishing the fruity and complex flavours of our coffees, along with those from other origins.”

He also talked about the pressure of competing at such a high level, sharing, “Pressure will always be present, but I remind myself that with every obstacle comes a lesson, a lesson to learn from. I find my peace within the storm, seeking solace in my faith in God.”

The 2023 Starbucks National Barista Championship has been a resounding success, recognising and celebrating the passion and expertise of our baristas. We wish Thapelo the best of luck as he prepares to represent Starbucks South Africa on the global stage, at the EMEA Barista Championship.

Did you know?

Starbucks coffee is 99% ethically sourced and accredited by Conservation International under the C.A.F.E. Practices programme. Starbucks is committed to ethically sourcing coffee worldwide and including exceptional coffee from nine African countries – Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Kenya, Burundi, Zambia, Cameroon, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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