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Olando Knowles claims Starbucks barista champ title

Five years ago, Olando Knowles participated in the inaugural Starbucks Bahamas barista championship. He placed nowhere near the top of the field when all was said and done. He sat out the competition for the ensuing three years, before deciding to try his hand again this year for bragging rights. In his second attempt, Knowles emerged victorious.

The four-year Starbucks veteran was named the fifth Starbucks Bahamas barista champion, and earned himself a one-week Costa Rican coffee immersion experience.

“I was kind of confident in my skills, but it’s only because I know what I do and I know how to do it and do it well,” said Knowles, who is stationed at the Cable Cottage location and carted the title off to the west for a second consecutive year.

“This is crazy,” said Knowles after his win. “I felt a little butterflies – but I just focused on what I had to do. I just came to have a good time and was like whoever wins it, wins it. It’s unbelievable.”

Of returning to competition after the years off, he said he took the time to improve himself.

“In the interim period I grew a lot in that time period, and I learned a lot. I learned a lot about customer service – that you have to please the customer and make the customer happy.”

Knowles’ advice is to never doubt yourself.

“Anything that you put your mind to, you can do it,” he said.

Jameka Stubbs from the Palmdale store finished in the runner-up position.

Devonique Knowles, who is stationed at the airport location, snagged the latte art title. She was in her second year in the competition, having competed last year.

Knowles takes over the title from the lone female winner Shawnell Clarke (2018-2019), who won an all-expense paid trip to Costa Rica to visit Starbucks’ 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. In Costa Rica, Clarke made history when she became the first Bahamian barista to win a title at the regional level, when she won the latte art competition.

Prior to Clarke’s win, Tariq Cartwright (2017-2018) held the title. He got to explore all things coffee – from the planting process to the production over a week in Puebla, Mexico.

Joshua Rolle held the title in 2016-2017. His experience was held in Bogota, Colombia, at the second annual Latin America and Caribbean Starbucks Barista Championships.

Steven Hepburn (2015-2016) was the pacesetter as the first barista to claim the title. His experience included a Seattle trip where he got to visit 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.

Javan Smith, food and beverage learning development manager for the John Bull Group of Companies, said the competition was really good this year.

“This is the highlight of the calendar year for Starbucks Bahamas and after going through a period in our business due to tremendous growth, opening Southwest Plaza, relocated Palmdale, opened a store in Baha Mar, we hired a lot of people and for the first time we have more new people and an opportunity for us to re-establish ourselves, our culture, with the brand and what we represent,” said Smith

Cartwright, the former barista champion who is now training coordinator for Starbucks, said on the day, the best man won, and that Knowles was an experienced coffee master who wowed the crowd.

Shavaughn Moss

Lifestyles Editor at The Nassau Guardian
Shavaughn Mossjoined The Nassau Guardianas a sports reporter in 1989. She was later promoted to sports editor.Shavaughn covered every major athletic championship from the CARIFTA to Central American and Caribbean Championships through to World Championships and Olympics.
Shavaughn was appointed as the Lifestyles Editor a few years later.

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