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13th National Barista Championship Showdown Gets ‘Tastier’ As 16 Qualify For Semi-Finals

Judges of the 13th National Coffee Championship during the ongoing competition

It’s two days to the finals of the 13th Uganda National Barista Championship and tomorrow, 16 semifinalists will battle it out at MOTIV in Kampala before the finals on Wednesday.

The talent on display during the championship has been electric and the top crop in Uganda’s Barista Profession will aim to impress the Judges with their brewing skill and coffee knowledge to make it to the finals.

Out of the 16 semifinalists, 5 are female and 11 male. Below are the 16 semi-finalists;

Achaya Kato Vandra

Adam Azad, Kidi Academy

Benedict Muwanguzi, Makerere University Coffee Club

Brenda Nalukwago, Embago Coffee

Lyazi Ritah Mirembe, The Patio Cafe and Restaurant

Collins Shalvin Ssebunya

Denis Kapalaga, Quality Assurance Officer, UCDA

Mercy Nakasango, Reire Coffees

Noeline Kitone, Endiro Coffee

Isaac Ntambi, Elevation Coffee Company

Ibrahim Kiganda, Mountain Harvest SMC Ltd

Fahad Katemba, Cafe Javas

Yusuf Welikhe aka Barista Jeff, Darling Coffee Ltd

Simon Eidodo Ochen, Chariots Coffee & Barista Academy

Charles Lukonge, La Patisserie Express

Winnie Kimanzi, The Villa

In the first round, the 13th Uganda National Barista Championship (UNBC) organised by the Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) attracted 43 participants, giving the youthful baristas an opportunity to test their skills in brewing different coffee beverages.

The Championship returned after three years, having been halted in 2020 during the semi-finals round due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Brenda Kemigisha Mangeni, the Head Judge of the competition, says the preliminary round of the competition took place at UCDA’s Quality Laboratory in Lugogo, and attracted 13 females and 30 males.

“Baristas have been very eager to participate in the championship after it was halted in 2020 during preliminary rounds due to COVID-19 pandemic. This implies that Uganda has not had champions for the past two years,” Kemigisha says, adding: “Uganda’s absence at the international platforms has been affecting our visibility and denying us opportunity to further market Uganda coffee.”

She reveals that the overall UNBC champion represents Uganda at the Africa Barista Championship (ABC) and at the World Barista Championship (WBC) that are conducted during the Specialty Coffee Association Conferences at African Fine Coffee Association conference (AFCA) and World Coffee Events (WCE) in Europe. “Participating in these championships provides a platform for Uganda coffee to be showcased and marketed. It also gives visibility for Uganda as a coffee producing country and markets it as an origin of specialty Arabica and Fine Robusta,” Kemigisha says.

She explains that the championship seeks to identify the best baristas who have the best skills and craftsmanship to make the best coffee beverages.

The competition involves baristas preparing four espressos, four milk beverages and four original signature drinks, extracting them in 15 minutes and serving them set of four sensory judges, two technical judges and a head judge.

Asked about what judges consider to arrive at the winner, Kemigisha said that the judges basically look out for skillsmanship and craftsmanship of baristas in as far as coffee brewing is concerned.

“Judges look at how good a barista knows to use the machine; how are their skills in describing their coffee to the detail? They also look at how their skills can come together to extract beverages to their perfection and properly highlight the coffees they are serving to the judges,” Kemigisha says, adding: “The judges evaluate each performance on the taste of the beverage served, cleanliness, creativity, technical skill and overall presentation.

“They then carefully and meticulously select the most talented and knowledgeable barista,” she says.

Kemigisha says the judges are basically composed of Q and R graders who are skilled and trained to taste best coffee beverages and differentiate good quality coffees from poor quality coffees.

“A team of national sensory judges and technical judges are selected to judge during this competition and are headed by a judge that is appointed by the World of Coffee Events,” she says.

Role of baristas

The key role of a barista is to brew high quality beverages and act as a link between all the value chain actors and the consumer.

“A barista is the one supposed to present the coffee to the consumer in the most palatable and enticing way. The coffee should be presented to the consumer in the most perfectly brewed way so that they can be enticed to drink more. They (baristas) are supposed to explain to the consumer the different ranges of products/ beverages they have so as to meet the changing needs of consumers,” Kemigisha explains.

She adds that a barista should be very knowledgeable about coffee and have the best skills to brew the best coffee.

“You could have very good coffee beans but someone doesn’t know how to brew them perfectly,” she says.

Value addition

Kemigisha explains that the championship marries into the coffee value addition agenda Uganda is pursuing.

“Under the Value Addition and Promotions Department, we have several activities such as training in basic quality control where participants are trained about quality from the seed to the cup. the barista training focuses on coffee brewing. The participants are introduced to the coffee and taught how to brew coffee using different equipment that they can access, both manual and espresso brewing methods,” Kemigisha says.

She adds: “This championship is basically about the espresso beverages. Through this championship, we want to entice the youth to join the coffee value chain and help them grow their creativity in brewing coffee beverages which will help grow domestic coffee consumption. The different ranges of products will entice different consumers to drink coffee; there could be a consumer who doesn’t want espresso probably it’s too strong for them, but there will be a signature drink that has fruits, chocolates and other ingredients that could entice and be more palatable to that consumer.”

She says out of 43 participants, only two were out of the youth bracket.

Employment opportunities

UCDA says since the first barista championship was held in Uganda in 2008, one of the notable accomplishments has been the cultivation of highly skilled and knowledgeable baristas who have not only excelled locally, but have also made a significant impact abroad.

“Ugandan baristas are highly sought abroad; they have found exceptional employment opportunities in the Gulf countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman, and Kuwait. Some are in the United States,” Kemigisha says.

She says Ugandan baristas are highly recommended because of their intense knowledge about coffee, skillsmanship and craftsmanship.

“Some have set up schools in the UAE to teach people on how to make a good cup of coffee,” she says.

Taddewo William Senyonyi
William is a seasoned business and finance journalist. He is also an agripreneur and a coffee enthusiast.

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