By TOM HANRATTY
SHERMENE Luistro hopes to be crowned the Middle East’s coffee queen at an international contest in the UAE next week.
The 31-year-old Filipina is representing Bahrain in the regional finals of Costa Coffee’s annual Barista of the Year competition in Dubai.
She has been selected after first fighting off competition from fellow workers at her branch, in Isa Town, and then going on to win the national heats against colleagues from across the country.
However, she remains grounded and admitted her love affair with coffee started just 18 months ago when she first moved to Bahrain to work for the coffee franchise.
“When I first came to Bahrain it was just a job, but then I began to enjoy it and get a passion for coffee,” she told the GDN.
“I didn’t really have much knowledge of coffee before I started working there, but when I started to learn things I was eager to know more and even started reading books about coffee.
“It’s a great job to be in – I have a passion for it and want to learn more and more, and also I get to meet many good people.
“In the Philippines I drank coffee, but I had no idea of the different types and varieties.
“I don’t go a day without drinking coffee now, it’s like my battery.”
After first seeing off competition from two colleagues at the Isa Town branch, Ms Luistro went on to win the area heats against six other branches before clinching the national final.
“It’s great going from representing the store, then the area and now Bahrain – I’m really happy and excited, but also nervous,” she added.
Costa Coffee is taking the competition seriously and regulars at its Isa Town branch will have noticed Ms Luistro’s absence over the past few weeks.
However, rather than being rested ahead of her big shot at the title, she is actually in the midst of an intensive regime at the company’s training facility.
“I am at the Riffa academy for training for two weeks,” she said.
“I’m going through the practical and theory parts that will hopefully prepare me for the competition.
“I’m working a lot on the speed and presentation of the delivery.”
Ms Luistro now intends to brew up a storm in Dubai having cast off the nerves she felt in the earlier rounds.
She will head to the UAE on Tuesday and the contest will take place at Amwaj Rotana, at the Jumeirah Beach Residence, on Wednesday.
It will see the national champions of the UAE, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and India go head to head – being tested for speed of service, presentation and personal interaction.
They will also be asked to create their own unique signature drink, which will be judged on taste, presentation and innovation.
If Ms Luistro wins, she will go on to represent the Middle East and North Africa and India at the Champion of Champions Final in London later this year.
“At the time of the branch heats I didn’t think about winning because there are so many Costa employees, but I thought there was no harm in trying,” she revealed.
“Now I have got this far I want to go to Dubai and win.
“I am very proud to be representing Bahrain, I’m very proud for my store and my company, but also very proud for myself – it’s a big honour.”