One of my dreams is to compete in and win a coffee competition. I’ve often wondered what it would take to get me there. Is it skill? Luck? Practice? All of the above?

I asked the former UAE Brewers Cup champion, Mariam Erin what it takes to compete in and win a coffee competition.

Source: Mariam Erin

Introduce yourself to the readers

I’m Mariam, from the Philippines. I’m the youngest in the family, and the only girl as well. I have 3 older brothers who are all in Engineering & Art as well. I grew up in a family where Paintings and the Arts were always a part of our life. ⠀

How did you start in coffee?⠀

I started in coffee back in 2015 but I joined specialty coffee 2018.

It was never really my day job. Because of what I studied I ended up working in a laboratory. It was my eagerness to work outside my country that lead me to specialty coffee. It started as a hobby but became my job when I got a chance to join The Espresso Lab. ⠀

I guess it’s my Food Science studies that makes me so fascinated to learn the science behind every cup. And it feels like I never really left my field of study. I just moved from a laboratory to a more friendly, people-focused environment. A more fun place.

Source: Mariam Erin

How long have you been in the UAE?

I’ve been here 3 years.⠀

What do you enjoy most about working in coffee?

The sharing & connection… either to the people or to the coffee. It’s always seems so magical how we are one big community. From producers to consumers. It feels like everyone has known each other for years. Because we communicate in one common language: coffee.

Source: Mariam Erin

What do you think of the future of specialty coffee in the UAE?

I am happy to be part of the fast growing community of specialty coffee in the UAE. The country is really embracing specialty coffee. Working in a shop & meeting customers who are as knowledgeable as the barista makes me feel proud.⠀

How do you train to compete in coffee competitions?⠀

I agree a training log & calendar with my coach. One that prepares me to be both physically and mentally healthy to compete. It’s also a lot of trial and error, experiments, discussion and sleepless nights.

Source: Mariam Erin

How do you feel about being the 2021 UAE Brewer’s Cup Champion?

Firstly, as a professional it’s great achievement for me – another milestone to my career. But on a personal note, I feel like I’ve communicated my message & purpose on stage.⠀

Two years ago it was all just a draft, a plan. I was building a concept in my head. As an artist, a coffee lover & a coffee professional. ⠀

My journey to national stage has become a platform for me to dig deeper into the rabbit hole of coffee, while experimenting and just enjoying the learning process. Learning is an art itself, so I didn’t experience it as pressure. Preparing for the stage, whether it be nationals or worlds, or even just in the brew bar sharing stories and ideas with the guest always excites me. ⠀

I think that’s the beauty of being able to share your thoughts and ideas in a 10 minutes span of time. The only difference between being at a brew bar & being on stage is that you have scoresheets and rules to follow. And as I said to my presentation “my routine is my daily art, connecting the customers to the art of the coffee that they are having everyday”.

And you will never really be 100% prepared to a compete. So at least make sure you are enjoying & growing in the process. Because that’s your take-away. The trophy is a bonus.⠀

Source: Mariam Erin

What’s next for you?

I’m preparing for the next competition, while enjoying my coffee journey. I don’t promise myself what will happen in the future. But I will continue to connect to the people in this community, from the farmers to the consumers.