Senior Places Second at Barista Championship

Tom Hermanek shows off coffee-making skills at annual competition


Photo by Maddie Mollner

Hermanek poses with his silver mug trophy after winning second place

Maddie Mollner, Student Life Editor

During the usual morning run to Starbucks, it’s no doubt that a Grande Caramel Macchiatto with an extra shot is the only thing on the customer’s mind. However, what is often ignored is what goes on behind the scenes of making that caffeinated beverage.

Starbucks baristas were given an opportunity to demonstrate their skills at the annual Barista Championship on May 9, hosted by Starbucks at their store at 87th & Pacific Streets in Countryside Village.

One of these ten coffee experts was Tom Hermanek, a senior at Skutt Catholic. He has been a Starbucks Barista for two years and represented the coffee chain’s 156th and Dodge location. Behind him were many of his coworkers, each holding a neon sign and cheering him on during his beverage preparations.

The Barista Championship includes two events: Pour Over Demonstration/Tasting and Espresso Craft. Hermanek chose to brew a cup of Starbucks’ Organic Yukon Blend coffee for his first event. For his second, Hermanek was required to craft three espresso beverages. Both events are judged based on technical and sensory components.

Baristas had to explain each step as they crafted their beverages. The judges engaged the competitors and asked questions about the beverage that they chose to prepare and general technique. For example, during their Pour Over presentation, Hermanek explained why he poured the water in a circular motion.

Photo by Maddie Mollner
Herman demonstrating a proper pouring motion

Jason Irlanda, manager of Starbucks at 123rd & Center Streets, emceed the event.

“We wanted to celebrate the baristas’ crafts, show off their skills and really give them a platform to show what they do at Starbucks. Our customers get to experience it every day, but it’s really about showing off who they are and what they can do,” said Irlanda.

“A barista is someone who hones their craft in the art of making coffee and coffee beverages. To us, being a barista is really about providing not only the greatest cup of espresso, but doing it in a way that truly exceeds the customer’s expectations,” he continued.  

Once all 10 competitors had prepared their drinks, it was time for the big reveal of who was the Starbucks Barista Champion. After a lot of suspense, it was announced that Hermanek had received second place, recognized with a silver mug trophy and a small Arabica coffee bean plant.

Shawn Schmalken, Store Manager at Starbucks’ 72nd & Dodge location, worked behind the scenes for the event. He offered his reflection on what being a successful barista is about: “Being a barista at Starbucks is being involved with a craft and with the customers. It’s fun and exciting—sometimes it can be stressful and exhausting—but it’s all about having fun and being who you are while engaging with the customers.”


Maddie Mollner

Maddie joined The Flightline in January of 2017. She is a senior this year, involved in cheerleading. Outside of school, she reads, collects flamboyant socks and hangs out in parks with her friends. You can email her at [email protected]