Meet Mikaela, Human Resources coordinator and barista of The Collective Coffee as well as silver medalist of World Brewers Cup 2016. On Tumblr, she makes some important points based on the discrimination within the coffee industry, as well as some inspiring pieces of advice based on why we should compete. For those willing to participate world coffee championships, this could be it!
Hey, everybody! I’m Mikaela, I’m a 28-year-old Finn and I live in Copenhagen, Denmark. As a person, I’m happy, social and hardworking. I love food and wine and spend a good amount of my spare time enjoying those with my friends and family. As barista my strength is consistency and my passion is in brewing filter coffee, always looking for sweetness and juiciness in the cup. My drive resulted in reaching the silver medal in World Brewers Cup 2016!
I’ve worked with coffee almost 6 years now, and about 3 of them at The Coffee Collective. I work as Human Resources coordinator and barista. I love my job’s diversity of ‘people and planning’ combined with ’flavour and working with my hands’.
On the discrimination topic
From my experience, I must say that I’ve felt only quite little discrimination in the coffee industry as a female. I think it might be because I’m fortunate to come from one of the most gender-equal countries, Finland, where women are highly educated, work side by side as men and are independent, strong minded and outspoken (this, of course, is a generalisation). I have always been all of those things at my work, and luckily I have been accepted through showing hard work and determination to develop. Working with coffee in Denmark too, I’ve felt appreciated by my co-working men. I do though know I am very lucky.
The drive and the whys
I started to compete because I felt that I was getting automatised in my work behind the bar and wanted to give myself an extra push to learn more about the origin, brew different recipes and challenge myself as a presenter. I’m quite determined so I thought – Why not? What’s there to lose? — And signed up for it.
The first year I did awful and was so nervous. But the judges debriefing helped me to start understanding what competition success required and where I get points from. I’ve competed in Brewers Cup for 3 years in a row, last two years I’ve won the national competition and presented Finland in the Worlds’.
Why should you compete?
Why not? What’s there to lose?
A lot of you are so smart, organised, determined, hardworking, passionate and so so so talented in customer service and communication. That’s all you need to compete, and a little bit of sisu (Finnish for courage, determination, willpower). One does not need to necessarily invent new brewing equipment, source new species or have magic roasts. Figure out why you work with coffee, what you love about it day in and day out, what are you good at and make that the foundation to start building your competition set on. Then figure out where you are not so good at and ask for help, then you learn that too. I believe that learning should be the objective to compete because then no matter the competition result you have hit your goal.
Furthermore, competitions have been the most amazing places to meet other industry professionals nation and worldwide. Would you not want to meet all these other passionate individuals who have completely different stories to tell and techniques to share? To me, it’s very inspiring to see the diversity and the talent our coffee-colleagues have.
WORLDS BARISTA CHAMPIONSHIP
Going to the World Championships it’s all very glamorous! Multiple nights I chose to spend time having monologs to a wall where our aprons hang, trying to engage with them and win them over. I dialled in the recipe several times, doing tweaks to check that what I believed was great could not get even better. I wrote and rewrote my speech again and again. I practiced the speech on my bike, running, and talking more to those aprons until my throat hurt from speaking. I asked for help from people who had experience in things I did not, and I got to learn and be inspired by their talent and generosity. And not least, I got to drink so much of great coffee that it’s all worth.
In my open service routine, I wanted to have fun, be relatable, clear and engage with the judges. I wished to make them feel where my passion for acidic coffee and fresh sweetness came from and why my all-time favourite coffee, Kieni from Kenya, should be considered world-class in its own right. I wanted to present my appreciation to year-after-year amazing quality that is accessible to the everyday consumer.
The World Championships now in Dublin was a great event. I had friends there who I met the previous year or through travels and the atmosphere was very friendly, open and respectful. Everyone was wishing each other good luck! You are pretty busy backstage and need to focus, and everyone understood that and gave space to each other.
Do you, and do it proudly every day, do this for yourself. Take bravely the opportunities you see. Ask for help when you don’t know so you learn. And always be kind.