What is it that motivates a barista to rise to the top of their field?

GBC WinnersWe asked the 3 winning finalist from the recent Danes Grand Barista Championships to give us an insight into what drives them to be part of Australia’s growing band of elite baristas, and what keeps them there.

Here is what Habib Maarbani from NSW, Jesse Hyde from Victoria and David Seng, also from Victoria, had to say.

These professionals are only the ‘tip of the iceberg’ when it comes to passionate baristi in Australia and we intend to profile many more in the coming months (and years) as we showcase Australia’s passion for coffee and the dedicated people behind the machines.


Habib MaarbaniHabib Maarbani:
I’ve been making coffee since 2003, and first learnt to first make coffee in Melbourne. Right from the start, I loved bar work (both alcohol and coffee bars) -  there is something extremely satisfying about beginning with raw materials, be they coffee beans and cold milk, or fruit/herbs and liqueurs (for cocktails) for example and manipulating them to create something that excites or intrigues the palate.

So, although I graduated from a Commerce degree, majoring in Finance, I always found barista work appealing. Sharing this passion with my brother Steve, we developed Morgan’s Kitchen, located in the Sydney suburb of Liverpool, in 2006 – with the view to taking great quality products to the masses. I now manage Morgan’s Kitchen full time and that is my working passion.

But, if I had to pinpoint the driver of my passion, (though no doubt it will sound cheesy) it is a customer’s genuine smile at being ‘Wowed” – they usually stand at the counter as they wait for their coffee and watch as we prepare it. Seeing their smile as you free pour something stunning into their cup – it actually makes my day. That is my daily reminder for why I love what I do, and why I’ll continue to pursue that perfect coffee, every time, for every customer.

Jesse HydeJesse Hyde: I have been making coffee for many years but was first introduced to the world of specialty coffee at Pioneer Roastery in Yandina on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. It was there that I tried some Ethiopian Harar and was amazed by what a different taste it had to any coffee I had previously tasted. This sparked a real curiosity in me and I ended up working for Pioneer for about a year.

I then moved back to Melbourne for a brief time and worked at Veneziano with Dave Makin, Cassie-Anne Lawry and Peter Wolff for about 6 months. It was here that I witnessed the amazing amount of preparation that is involved in being a competition barista. Both Dave and Cassie-Anne were so methodical, precise and consistent and this was definitely inspiring to be a part of this environment.

Currently I am working as a barista at Primary cafe in Parkville, Melbourne with Erin Sampson who is like a Kung Fu master at latte art! I hope to be opening my own place called Dancing Goat Cafe in Melbourne’s CBD sometime in August.

What keeps me passionate about coffee? It’s that I am always learning more about it and always will be. Improving my technical skills and consistency is just one part. What’s really great though is working with awsome coffee and pulling a shot that you are actually reluctant to give to your customer, “mmm…they can have the next one!”

David SengDavid Seng: I’ve been working as a barista for a little over 2 years. I fell in to the coffee industry by chance. I’m currently studying to become a mechanical engineer and have a love for all things technical. It has only been in the last year working at Veneziano’s ‘First Pour’ that I discovered specialty coffee. My inquisitive nature and desire to learn more about things led me on a search to find out how to create that ultimate cup of coffee.

Barista competitions have accelerated my learning and radically changed the way I think about coffee. I’m very lucky to be surrounded by people who are so passionate and knowledgeable about coffee.

The more I learn about coffee, the more I realise how little I know.

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