Meet Jelka ~ Barista Of The Year 2019
One of the best baristas working at Costa Coffee Malta recently clinched the Barista of the Year 2019 and got the opportunity to compete with other top baristas from around the world in an international showdown held in Poland. Jelka Antunovic who has only been with Costa for some 18 months never knew brewing coffee would become such a pleasure and passion in her life. "I applied for the job during my gap year at University but even now as a Digital Arts student, I cannot let the job go. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that this job would become such an adventure."
Spotted out by her manager for her personality and skills, and inspired by her Maestro Barista who had won the challenge previously, she was encouraged to participate in the local competition which involved multiple challenges. The first challenge was the Technical Run - a time slot of 15 minutes during which she had to prepare a Grind & Dose procedure, a Latte a Cappuccino, an Espresso, and a Flat White. "It was not a huge challenge for me in the sense that at my station at MIA's Schengen Area I serve early morning travellers who are always in a hurry rushing off to catch their flight. So, the time limit was not an issue." The second part of the test was a history quiz with questions about coffee, the history of Costa, and all the technicalities behind the process of making a brew, from the grain to the cup.
"I placed with the final group, most of which was comprised of colleagues from my team. Then I had to come up with a speciality drink. This was a tough cookie since it required originality, great taste and creativity. After much experimentation, I came up with something very Maltese, very novel... A Figolla Drink. I am half Maltese, so for me, it was important to include this national touch."
Her cold drink included all the characteristics of the traditional figolla, in beverage form... Butter icing, almond milk, whole roasted almonds, ground almonds, coffee and icing. The judges were impressed with her unique homemade presentation, and with the deliciousness of her very particular beverage and she won hands down. This means she would be representing Malta with her Figolla Drink, up in Poland.
In Poland, she was competing with participants from the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Greece, Latvia, Poland, Portugal, Russia and Spain. The judges were seeking to identify the highest level of Pride, Passion and Personality amongst the contestants, during the live show with an audience of some 150 spectators. "The atmosphere was electrifying and whilst my presentation was tweaked slightly, the drink remained the same and garnered a great deal of positive response. I was thoroughly at ease during the presentation and am very satisfied with how it turned out." Jelka successfully placed fourth and was awarded the 'Facebook and Audience Award'.
"I am very pleased with my experience and proud that I came so close to the finishing line. I am also very satisfied to know I have reached Costa standards which are very demanding and unique to the company. I will not be able to participate again next year, but I am using my experience to train a newbie to reach the Costa standards and possibly bring another super award back home."