CHICAGO – Two of the nation’s most talented coffee professionals have proven to be masters of their trade… staking their claim to this distinction during an intense espresso making and latte design competition.
The national “Battle of the Baristas” competition took place at the Gloria Jean’s Coffees location at Chicago Ridge Mall on Monday, August 22nd where four finalists competed to become recognized as the top barista and latte artist in America. Chicago residents and Gloria Jean’s employees David Soto and Maria Cazares took home the highest honors, by winning best barista and best latte artist respectively. They will move on to represent the United States in the international competition in Australia this September. Their trip will include all expenses paid.
“Gloria Jean’s Coffees jumps at any opportunity to support and honor our talented staff,” said Martin Balcaitis, director of marketing at Gloria Jean’s Coffees. “We saw teamwork throughout all phases of this competition, which reflects the camaraderie our brand values. It was truly gratifying to see the finalists giving each other advice and cheering each other on despite the competitive atmosphere. We cannot wait to send David and Maria to Australia to compete for the international titles.”
Soto, who serves as head of HR for the franchise owner of several Gloria Jean’s locations in Chicagoland, is a college student with a passion for coffee. He brought his Ecuadorian heritage into the competition by using ingredients and flavors that were unique to his country. Cazares, a seasoned barista who serves as a regional manager for Gloria Jean’s in the Chicago area, wowed the judges with her artistically designed blue lotus flower on top of her latte.
With judges lining the coffee bar, each competitor took great care in prepping their station and presenting their final work. The judges were instructed to carefully watch every move, as well as the clock. All competitors were judged on uniqueness of design, quality of art, technique, taste, color and cleanliness of their drinks.
Underscoring the “Battle of the Baristas” is the quality of the coffee Gloria Jean’s offers. Roasting all of its own coffees, Gloria Jean’s Coffees maintains a strong commitment to providing fresh, premium blends ranging from light to dark varieties for its guests. In addition to its award-winning origins and blends, the brand is also well known for its flavored coffees and specialty beverages such as its signature chillers, mochas, lattes and hot cocoas. For those looking for a snack to accompany their coffee, Gloria Jean’s serves baked goods, including sweet breads and pastries.