DUBAI // If your idea of a decent brew is some boiled water slopped in with a spoonful of freeze-dried coffee, look away now. The heat is on to find the Emirates' best barista a coffee-making professional and these aficionados take their business seriously. A panel of seven judges four sensory, two technical and one head judge have slurped, swilled and frowned over more than 300 cups of the hot stuff that were produced this week in the initial rounds of the country's first barista competition.
Entrants had to make a dozen drinks in 15 minutes, including four espressos, four cappuccinos and four signature drinks. The winner, who will be announced after the final round today, will represent the UAE at the World Barista Championship next year in London. Simply pouring a decent cup was not enough, judges said. To make it to the final round, baristas had to be well turned out, show mastery of a coffee machine and present beautiful and consistent cups of coffee. Ronaldo Sibucao, 28, a Filipino coffee demonstrator from the Emirates Snack Food distribution company, was one of the first competitors. After six years with Starbucks, when he earned the title of coffee master, he graduated to his current job showing hotels and restaurants how to brew coffee properly.
He was off to a confident start, whipping out four espressos in less than three minutes. The judges sipped politely while one raised a quizzical eyebrow, then scribbled furiously as Mr Sibucao's hands shook with nerves. The next test: delivering four silky smooth cappuccinos. Vital minutes flew by as he tried to whip up the right degree of foam. As he broke a sweat, the judges examined the top layer by seeing how firmly it stayed on the back of a teaspoon.
Mr Sibucao recovered with his pièce de résistance a caramel, pistachio, white chocolate and whipped cream creation topped with chopped nuts. "I was a bit nervous and was having trouble making the foam for the cappuccinos," he said. "I used the best Italian products because I really want to win. It would be a great honour." The competition is part of the global Speciality Tea and Coffee Convention.