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Let the barista battle begin

The preparation period is over, and it’s put up or shut up time, as three baristas battle it out in a historic three-way final for the Starbucks Bahamas Barista Champion title. The showdown pits a nine-year company veteran versus a 15-month partner in the competition for the second time around, and an employee of just seven-months.

It’s going to be Lenice Winters, Tariq Cartwright and Shawnell Clarke pitted against each other to see who will rise to the top as the crème de la crème in the final that takes place today at the Starbucks Palmdale location.

A special latte art throwdown competition will be a highlight of this year’s final.

The ultimate prize, though, will be a one-week all-expense paid trip to Mexico during which they will get to explore all things coffee from the planting process through to the production of coffee.

Winters and Cartwright tied for first place out of the eight-man semifinals. The judges allowed the second placed Clarke to advance, which meant that a tie emerged for first place for the first time in the three years of the competition, and the first time three people advanced to the final.

“We decided to let the three persons go through, because they all worked really hard, and then to see a seven-month employee [in Shawnell Clarke] put in that amount of work and that amount of passion, we thought it would be robbery to not allow her to compete at that level,” said Javan Smith, Starbucks Bahamas market operations coordinator and learning and development specialist. “This is perhaps the tightest competition we’ve had,” he said.

Smith’s advice to the finalists is to take the risk and go for it, putting everything on the line in today’s final.

Winters, a nine-year partner, said she planned to push herself in the final. In the two weeks leading up to the day of reckoning she said it was all about practice for her.

Cartwright, who is in his second barista competition said he’s coming to win and believes he has the prize in the bag. He too focused on practice in the two-week break between the semifinals and final.

Although she was the newbie of the entire field, and only seven months into her employment, Clarke is going in with the thought of just doing her best. Like her competitors, she said the turnaround period for her was all about practice.

And just a little inside information on the finalists — Cartwright’s favorite coffee is the Café Verona; his favorite beverage is an iced shaken green tea lemonade with almond and coconut syrup. Clarke’s favorite coffee is the French Roast; the iced white mocha is her favorite beverage. Kenya is Winters’ favorite coffee; her favorite beverage is a cinnamon dolce chai tea latte.

Steven Hepburn, the first winner, was the Starbucks Barista Champion 2015. His prize was a trip to Seattle where he visited the Starbucks Support Center (headquarters) and iconic Starbucks locations such as the first store in Pike Place Market and the Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room.

Joshua Rolle, the Starbucks Barista Champion 2016, the second person to be crowned barista champion, won a trip to Colombia where he visited a Starbucks farm, the mountains where coffee is grown, engaged in a coffee bean-picking experience, interacted with partners that work at farms, and participated in extensive training and study with persons who work for the Starbucks support centers, which allowed him to gain firsthand information and knowledge.

When Rolle won, he had been a nine-month employee.

The Starbucks Barista Championship final takes place on Friday, June 30 at Starbucks Palmdale with a 3:30 p.m. start.

Dion Miller, Starbucks operations, encourages people to support their favorite barista, and to partake of the treats, prizes and trinkets to be given away. A deejay will entertain during the festivities.

“It’s going to be a fun atmosphere. Come celebrate and enjoy this time with us and the baristas,” said Miller.



When: Friday, June 30

Where: Starbucks Palmdale

Start time: 3:30 p.m.

Finalists: Lenice Winters, Tariq Cartwright and Shawnell Clarke



Dancers put through
Let’s jam for a go