More and more Filipino women are sliding behind the coffee counter, and they are causing quite a stir in the global arena. Not only are they holding leadership roles in F&B establishments, they are taking home the biggest trophies in international competitions. These four lady baristas will make you proud to be Filipino and inspire you to explore a career in coffee.
Mickay Ruazol is the head barista at Rise Fitness Boutique in Dubai, and last year, she added the title of UAE National Barista Champion to her credentials. The original espresso that she had prepared was from Colombia, a rare cross between red bourbon and typica. With it, the 24-year-old bested sixteen other competitors and earned herself a slot at the World Barista Championship in Boston, USA last April.
She has gone quite a long way, having started her career as a barista only three years ago. She juggled her previous job as in-store trainer for waitstaff with barista training. Curious about what the baristas were doing at the cafe she was working for, she took the opportunity to know more about coffee from her colleagues and be part of training sessions at Gold Box Roastery, Dubai, during her days off. “I didn’t waste my time doing nothing. I feel like I’ve always wanted this,” she says.
And she continues to learn. “The more you know, the more you know you don’t know,” she quotes, so she strives to meet new people who can teach her different things.
“I enjoy tasting coffee, having fun doing cupping and sensory training with my coffee friends,” Ruazon says. As she communicates with people from all over the world to learn more about coffee, she also works on building her communication skills, “so the right information will be passed on.”
To contribute to the industry, she discloses that she is brewing a project which will encourage more women to enter her field. She also has friends in the coffee industry in the Philippines. “We are helping them in terms of coffee beans. In Dubai, we are proudly telling everyone how Philippine coffee is emerging,” Ruazol says.
Lablibell moved to Dubai in 2013. It was while training for her first job at Caffe Divino that she became interested in coffee. Thrilled and amazed by what she had learned, she decided then and there to be a barista. She hones her craft through research, constant practice and daily application of principles she picks up.
The 31-year-old currently works at Nostalgia Al Thanya. To this day, it brings her joy to get a glimpse of customers smiling and enjoying a cup she prepared. “It is very rewarding when they compliment me.”
Bajarias is among the minority of women behind the coffee bar, a circumstance with its own difficulties. “You’ll be underestimated, looked down upon and judged, just because you’re a woman,” she reveals. “The greatest challenge is to prove them wrong.”
And she did just that by taking home the championship trophy from the UAE National Brewers Cup held in December 2018 at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Center.
For her final winning entry, she used coffee produced by Jamison Savage and roasted by Tasos from Underdog, a Geisha variety from Finca Deborah. She also used new innovations such as the Lilydrip and a flow restrictor.
According to Bajarias, two months of preparation is sufficient. She went over her routine every day after her shift. “It is stressful yet fun. I made sure I know my coffee, I made sure everything is in place, and I made sure everything is organized,” she says.
She says having a supportive team is a must. She is grateful for her friends, all bemedalled baristas who were with her all the way. “They taught me perseverance and determination in achieving my goals, not only in making the best cup of coffee, but also making the best out of life,” she concludes.
Mai Eson holds the record for the highest spot in the world barista championship that anyone from the United Arab Emirates has ever occupied. She landed 20th out of 57 contenders. For the competition held in Seoul, Korea in November 2017, she represented The Espresso Lab in Dubai where she continues to be head barista.
For a good chance at winning, she points out that foremost is choosing the right coffee. “It doesn’t have to be very rare and expensive, as long as you have the information about the coffee. Then create a script and a routine where you can express yourself and the coffee you are using,” she recommends.
But it was not until she transferred to Dubai that she realized that the coffee industry has something more to offer. And there’s still a lot of room for new members. “Begin with students. Invite young trainees or students taking up F&B courses to watch throwdowns and similar competitions,” she suggests for growing the community. To allow more women to penetrate the field, she encourages owners to hire baristas based on skills and not gender. “Most women I know are effective in the bar because they are well organized and can maintain a neat workflow,” she says.
Her post behind the bar is only the beginning for the 25-year-old. “I don’t intend to be a barista only. I’m pushing myself to become a better coffee professional who doesn’t only see the visual parameters but also understands what is happening behind the cup.”
“Knowledge must be shared,” stresses Vanessa Caceres. The Coffee Academics Singapore cafe manager and head barista is generous with her extensive experience from a career that started in 2007.
She has several victories tucked under her belt but her most memorable competition is the All-Stars Female Barista in Bogota, Colombia in 2015, sponsored by World Coffee Events and IWCA. Caceres’ group was hailed champion, and she won the top spot in the Latte Art category.
“We are most alive when we are in love—cliché, but that’s how I feel about being a barista, where I can freely express my creativity and originality,” declares the self-taught 36-year-old.
Aside from being an expert in latte art and pour over, she considers herself a specialist in explaining and educating drinkers about the types of beans and techniques used in coffee preparation. After all, she was a teacher of hospitality management before becoming a barista. “I have mentored more than a dozen, and now they’re all baristas working in Manila and Singapore,” she says. Someday she hopes to open her own barista school or training center in Manila to help potential baristas who cannot take expensive courses.
In the meantime, she extends her reach through social media. She is the Founder of Pinoy Barista on Facebook. The group, which currently has over 2,000 members, seeks to provide recognition to baristas as well as develop the craft. “The group helps baristas find jobs easily,” she says. Caceres is also the administrator of the 33,000-member strong Latte Art Philippines Facebook group, which promotes coffee and latte art and supports baristas around the world.
written by Nana Nadal