Why coffee? When did you start and what was the reason you chose coffee?
My favourite starting question! I started with coffee when I was 14, not exactly because I liked it but because I had to earn some money as my father died and had to take care of my family. I started as an assistant and straight after one month, I realized that it is not that difficult to be a waiter, plus you can earn some more money. So I did it. It was by that time, that I was curious about espresso taste, aroma, flavor, preparation and asked my barista colleagues to show me how I can make one. The next 2 months, I got promoted as a barista and remembered that I was so fascinated by the fact that everyone was asking so many things about coffee and I was the one who was explaining everything. I was searching everything about coffee, so I could be able to serve and educate my customers about it. People were coming to the shop and were asking for me to prepare them a coffee. I could only feel happy and proud, as I was the one who they were choosing to prepare for them one of the most important beverage of their day.
I couldn’t understand the big success that was under way, but I was able to sense the fact that people were talking about me and wanted to learn from me. One day, I met the owner of a very small coffee company in Greece who asked me to start doing coffee product demos and presentations, so I participated for my first time in a food and beverage exhibition in 1996 in Athens as the main barista and trainer of the booth.
I met so many people, and learnt so many things about coffee – what is Robusta, what do we mean by variety, what is a blend etc. Everyday was a learning experience for me.
I visited Treviso in 1997 and a famous coffee shop. I had a quick stop in a coffee factory and had my first seminars from the gurus of the coffee, the Italians. That was it.
This is when the big love story began! I came back and started experimenting and researching coffee on a day-to-day basis. I tried blending different things, as that was the only way that I could learn- experimenting is the vehicle to knowledge. I became the brand ambassador of the Hausbrand company and I was the first one who brought gourmet espresso blend I Athens. It was not easy to convince the customers to buy the blend for their shops because it was a totally different espresso- we had to change their mindset. And we did it!
I knew that this was the start of something big!
In 2003, people were asking me to compete in the National Barista Championship. I ranked 6th or 7th, I can’t remember really. I had a chat with the champion who explained to me what I should do better next time, where to focus and how to improve my mistakes.
I remember the next day a new chapter in my life started –
I stayed late after my shift, practicing and experimenting.
I covered most of my expenses and whatever I used by myself and, in 2004, after many many hours of work, and chemistry tricks, I came first during the national competition. I was the Greek Barista Champion of 2004.
How many times you compete and what you think about coffee competitions?
I believe that I will not be able to stop if I start counting.
I will try to cover as many participations as possible. You can participate with dual roles in the coffee championships.
As a barista and/or as a trainer. I have done both with a great success. I had ranked among the top baristas out there, but I had trained also some of the most talented, phenomenal coffee lovers, helping them reaching the top.
Competing as a Barista:
• Greek Barista Champion 2004, 2005, 2006, 2010, 2011, 2012
• 4th in the first World Latte Art Championship 2005
• Greek Latte Art Champion 2007
• Greek Coffee& Good in Spirit Champion 2007
• Greek Cupping Champion- representing Greece for the first time in Cupping 2008
• 6th in World Barista Championship held in London 2010
• 10th in World Barista Championship held in Maastricht 2011
• 4th place at the first World Brewers Cup Championship 2011
• 5th in World Barista Championship 2012
• Greek Brewers Cup Champion 2014
• World Brewers Cup Champion in Rimini 2014 Coach
• Coach 1st Coffee in good spirit Champion, Greece, 2005
• Coach of World Latte Art Champion, 2011
• Coach of No.3 in World Brewers Cup, 2012
• Coach of No.3 in World Barista Champion 2014
• Coach of Greek Barista and Brewers Champions, 2015
• Coach of No.2 in World Brewers Champion, 2015
• Coach of Greek Barista and Brewers Cup Champions 2016
• Coach of No.3 and No.10th at World Brewers Cup Championship, 2016
• Coach of Greek Barista and Brewers Cup Champions, 2017
• Coach Semi finalist WBC, 2017
• Coach of No. 1 and No.3 at the World Brewers Cup Champion, 2017
• Coach of Greek Brewers Cup Champion, 2018
• Coach of No. 3 at World Brewers up Championship, 2018.
Coffee competitions are something more than a game- are a learning path, a unique experience that has the magic to bring closer all the coffee lovers from the big coffee community. It is a coffee celebration where people can inspire and get inspired- a true source of knowledge!