Hundreds of exceptional Baristas have emerged from national competitions all over the world. And each year, a different batch of ambitious champions, comes together, to compete in the World Barista Championship.
In that competition, the participants have already won their national Barista Cup on the previous year, and now they are bestowed with the privilege to represent their roots and give their best shot in front of the entire coffee World.
Naturally, as some of the best performers keep triumphing in their homeland, it isn’t unnatural for a Barista to show up multiple times in the World stage.
And this is exactly the case with today’s topic. Today I am going to talk to you about one of my absolute favourites, who has emerged from the vibrant peaks and valleys of Japan!
Today we are going to talk about Miki Suzuki!
Who is Miki Suzuki?
Now, many of you are going to wonder, who is Miki Suzuki and what’s so interesting about her?
To which I will reply “Just give me 5 minutes”. So, let’s start from the very basics, shall we?
Miki Suzuki is a 3 times Champion of the Japanese Barista Championship, and all three times she made it to the finals of the World Cup. However, she got the first place none of these times, but in 2017, she got so close as to claim the second spot with a miraculous signature drink, called the “Double Grind”.
She has been a professional Barista for the past 14 years, and honestly, she got really good, real fast in terms of results. We will talk more about her coffee career in a second!
Early History and Coffee Career
Miki, as she confessed in an interview, wasn’t oriented towards a coffee career in the least in her childhood.
What she wanted to do, which she followed after graduating high school, was to become a pastry chef. She went on to study on the subject for two years and worked in a pastry shop for another three.
Where she grew up (Yokohama region) cakes and pastry in general are associated with smiles and celebrations, and she wanted to bring more of that kind of emotions to people’s lives, as she said in the interview.
After some time, she realized that pastry wasn’t exactly her cup of tea and made the bold decision to switch industries even after 3 successful years.
That switch, she credits to Starbucks, which got her to taste more of the coffee world than she previously knew. After that, in 2007 she got her first coffee job in a store originating in Seattle, called Zoka coffee.
About a year after working as a Barista and learning more about the industry, she got an invitation from a relatively new company called Maruyama coffee, and that’s where it all started!
Championships and Motivation
One of the most intriguing things about Maruyama Coffee, is that the entire team is oriented towards working together to make a spectacular result.
Exactly because of that, they were really supportive of Miki’s start and her boss suggested that she compete in the national championship, which she won in 2010 and 2011.
In both tournaments she made it to the finals of the World cup, in both cases competing against over 50 other champions.
As she personally claims, she is not a really competitive person and has a hard time presenting in public, which makes it even more of a feat in the eyes of someone who also has stage fright.
What kept her going, even past her fear, is that she wanted to become a champion for other female Baristas at the time, facing the tough world of competitions.
Understanding how difficult a choice it is for women like her, especially in the traditional landscape of Japan, to prioritize career over family, she desired to be a role model for other individuals in that position.
As competing in those events requires a lot of both time and experience, she didn’t want other female Baristas to think that it is impossible and give it up.
In the meantime, until 2016 and her next competition, she decided to go back to her everyday activities as a Barista and was an influential part of Hidenori Izaki’s team in 2013 and 2014, when he won the WBC.
And in 2017, in the World Barista Championship of Seoul, she came back and proved that:
- gender plays no role in making excellence and
- that she hadn’t stopped honing her craft all this time, by claiming the second spot worldwide!
She did that with her specialty drink, the “Double Grind”, for which I talk about more here!
In short, it is a very special beverage, with frozen specialty beans, double-ground to extract all the flavours. You can watch the entire process on YouTube as well! It is amazing to see how she uses liquid nitrogen before grinding in this video!
That competition of 2017 was her last, as Miki confessed, and although many people would grow bitter with the second place, she was really happy and thrilled. It was her best performance by her own standards, and I believe that’s all that truly matters!
Currently she is still a member of Maruyama coffee, responsible for sales planning, and still works as a Barista. Looks like she can bring more smiles and inspiration to people by actively engaging and continuing on her chosen path.
In conclusion, I believe that even the ones that didn’t know about Miki Suzuki’s career definitely have some valuable things to take home.
After all, she is one of the first female Baristas worldwide to have ascended to the first 3 positions of the WBC and her consistent efforts and persistence have inspired a lot of young professionals, exactly as she desired!
You will be able to find her in one of Maruyama’s stores in Japan should you ever visit, and I am absolutely certain you would love to taste a coffee from her hands!
To every coffee lover reading this, I wish you all the best, and may good coffee find you anywhere you go!