03 Oct Champion Barista Martin Returns from Dublin competitions filled with new inspiration
By Cynthia Kago
Despite his juicing machine breaking down on the World Barista Championship (WBC) stage, Artcaffe’s Head Barista and African 2016 Champion Martin Shabaya still managed to keep his composure and carry on with confidence through his nerve-wracking presentation to the international judges in Dublin in June.
Martin shabaya took position 24 out of the 62 baristas who made it to the final stage, had to prepare four espressos, four milk drinks, and four original signature drinks in just 15 minutes.
The competition focuses on promoting excellence in coffee, advancing the barista profession, and engaging a worldwide audience. WCE Certified Judges from around the world evaluate each performance on the taste of beverages served, cleanliness, creativity, technical skill and overall presentation.
Martin describes his awe-inspiring experience in Dublin to ArtLife.
How was the journey to Dublin?
I was excited to travel to Dublin; I had not visited the place before so I was just looking forward to a new experience. The place is beautiful I did a lot of fun things; I learned so much and it was a big success.
You competed on the first day, how did you feel being in the first lot?
I was very nervous, something I have never experienced before! It was not easy and I was the 18th person to compete making me even more nervous.
How can you describe your performance?
Honestly I did not like it at all. Unfortunately my machine broke down within the first five minutes and bear in mind I only had 15 minutes for my well rehearsed presentation. There is no exception to anything going wrong, all we had was the 15 minutes – once you go over time you were deducted points.
What happened to your machine?
Before I go on stage in any competition I normally polish my machine, make sure it is clean and spotless. This time round I had someone to assist, I couldn’t do it by myself. To polish it properly one has to dissemble it completely. So there is this part that was not twisted back in and it is impossible to know by just looking at it. During the process of squeezing grape juice (part of my signature drink) it fell apart. Mess everywhere! I became so disoriented, my mind just shut down, I did not know what to do. I just felt the weight of everyone looking at me, audience count was above one hundred people and the judges. At this point I knew my next move would determine my position.
I can imagine you had all kinds of feelings at this point, what did you do next?
I first apologised for the mess, cleaned up and began my show. This time I did it a lot faster due to the time that had been wasted. I was making my signature drink when it broke down.
Tell me about your signature drink?
It includes grapefruit, red seedless grapes, green cardamom and syrup. When that mess happened I literally died inside, I just had to carry on to the world stage as there was no second chance. I went over time with 10 seconds and unfortunately that is an automatic deduction of marks. I know I would have been top if my machine had stuck through. The penalty meant two baristas were pushed up ahead of me.
How did the judges respond to your drink?
Oh they loved it. My product was really good. All the drinks I made impressed the judges – it was such a relief.
How many African countries where represented? There was Uganda, Zambia, South Africa and, of course, Kenya. I took position 24 and the South African barista took 29th place so I feel fellow Africans are going places.
Did you interact with the other competitors and what can you say you learnt from them?
I made a lot of friends, some I had met before during other competitions but I still made more. I came to know about their coffee culture, their techniques, equipment and so much more. We shared a lot. I am pleased to say that in Kenya we grow very good coffee that is on demand worldwide, and that’s a good thing because it exposes our country.
From your experience what do you think Kenya needs to get to the next level when it comes to coffee?
Kenya needs accessories, we already have the best coffee but we lack the certain equipment to serve this coffee at is best. The government should support us to get moving in the country because everything I used I had to buy in Dublin to be on a par to my competitors. And also we need to promote coffee culture – because you find I was on the world stage championship yet not even half of our population know much about coffee or drink it.
What is the one lesson that you took home with you?
I thought that we have the passion to make coffee, but people overt there are totally obsessed with coffee! It is more than just a drink! For example I carried my coffee from Kenya when it was raw, so I had to look for someone to roast it for me. Luckily I met someone who has a small coffee shop but owned a whole warehouse that roasts coffee. That small coffee shop was inherited from his father, and his father before him – dating back a hundred years. I learned that coffee is more than what we think and to be great at it you need to have that passion.
What fun activities did you do while in Dublin?
I did a lot of fun things, like I rode on the horse and carriage through the city. The best part was when we visited the Guinness factory and I learnt how it is made – and of course the competition after party. Everyone was easy to get along with so it was a lot of fun.
Do you have any future plans?
Everything I thought I had planned out I have had to rearrange. I need to gain more experience to get to the level I want. I want to really push and promote coffee culture in Kenya. I have a clear path that I want to follow so you just wait and see!