The final is set! And this year three women, Paulshenae Hanna, Shawnell Clarke and D’Ardra Smith, and one man, Damian Brown, are gunning for the title of Starbucks Bahamas barista champion and the prize purse – a one-week trip to Costa Rica to visit Starbuck’s largest coffee farm at Hacienda Alsacia, which spans more than 370 city blocks and is the first coffee farm Starbucks has owned in its more-than 40-year history.
The visit to Hacienda Alsacia will be an immersion experience with coffee growers for the winner. He or she will also connect with other barista champions from the Caribbean and Latin American region and have the opportunity to compete for regional title at a latte art throwdown.
It’s going to be a doozy of a finale featuring two-time runner-up Smith; last year’s runner-up, Clarke; Brown, who has made it through to a previous semifinal; as well as competition novice Hanna.
The quartet were all impressive in their semis showing, so much so that the first through fourth places were separated by a mere one point in each instance — 489-486.
“The semis was the tightest we’ve ever had,” said Javan Smith, Bahamas market operations coordinator and learning and development manager. “It showed how much the coffee knowledge and awareness has grown, and speaks to the coffee masters program and the support training going on behind the scenes for our partners.”
Smith is super excited for the final, which will take place on Friday, June 15 at Starbucks Palmdale between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.
“There’s no clear winner in sight, but no matter who wins, we know The Bahamas will be well-represented at regionals,” said Javan Smith.
Clarke, who is in her second attempt at the title, said she wants to be barista champion because she loves sharing her coffee knowledge and experience with everyone she meets.
“The championship will also give me an opportunity to create and inspire unforgettable bonds between my partners and customers. It would be great to let any future winners of this competition know that it’s not about how long you’ve been in the company, but it’s really about how great your passion for Starbucks really is,” said Clarke.
D’Ardra Smith, in her third attempt for the coveted title, said she would like to be champion because she wants the opportunity to represent the Bahamian market and take her coffee passion to the next level.
Hanna, the competition’s newbie, wants to be the champion because she says she’s passionate about what she does and wants to share her passion with her fellow partners.
Brown said he wants the champion’s title so that he can showcase his skills while given the opportunity to oversee beverage quality and the love for what he does.
This year The Bahamas’ semis competition was so closely watched, Javan Smith said, that they had people calling in from Starbucks headquarters in Seattle, Washington, and the regional office in Coral Gables, Florida, weighing in on who they think they are the favorites to win. He said they were loud and vocal in their picks.
Previous Starbucks Bahamas champions Tariq Cartwright (2017-2018) spent one week in Puebla, Mexico, where he got to explore all things coffee, from the planting process to the production of coffee. Joshua Rolle was among a group of 23 Starbucks barista champions representing 13 countries who came together in Bogota, Colombia, at the week-long, second annual Latin America and Caribbean Starbucks Barista Championships Experience in 2015-2016. Before that, Steven Hepburn went down in the history books as the first barista to claim the title in 2014-2015. He was given 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.
During the upcoming final, Starbucks Bahamas will also reveal its newest coffee masters graduates in Hanna, Leanne Taylor, Eric Rolle, Mia Munnings, Bryinda Lloyd, Latre Paul, Devonique Knowles, Terrance Perigord, Andrea Newton, Aramantha Hall, Bethan Sinclair, Olando Knowles, Rachquel Walkine, Pamela Roberts, Crystal Rolle, Schyvelle Smith, Tiandra Bootel and Erica Miller.