It seems as if Waqar Al Hammadi came out of nowhere.
We didn’t know her before the UAE Aeropress Championship. Which she won! She then went on to compete in the World Championship. And took 4th place! We had to meet her. So when Brewing Gadgets offered us the opportunity to interview her, we jumped at the opportunity.
Brewing Gadgets is, without a doubt, the UAE’s leading supplier of specialty coffee equipment. They supply everything from espresso machines to pourover brewing gadgets from the world’s leading specialty coffee brands. Part of the community for about 10 years now, Brewing Gadgets runs a “Coffee Celebrity” campaign in which they introduce their audience to thought leaders from all over the specialty coffee world. And in December, Waqar was the coffee celebrity of the month.
They asked us to manage the interview. And here it is.
Please introduce yourself to our audience
I am Waqar Al Hammadi. An ambitious and passionate dreamer and believer. I am a home barista and the current UAE Aeropress Champion. And one of the top 9 in the World Aeropress Champions.
When did you first pick up the Aeropress?
I first picked up an Aeropress only 2 weeks before the UAE National Aeropress Championship. I attended a workshop in Abu Dhabi to learn how to use the device. Before then didn’t have any idea how to! I tried several different recipes during the workshop but was not happy with any of the results. After this workshop, I tried many recipes I found on the internet. And I still wasn’t happy with the results. I think it is clear that my taste is very difficult.
How did you prepare for the UAE competition?
As I mentioned earlier, I started preparing only 2 weeks before the competition. I found out about it during a cupping workshop I was attending. A week later I found information on the competition on their instagram page. So I registered. Even though I didn’t know the Aeropress at all at that point. I didn’t know how to use it and I didn’t know any recipes.
After registering I asked myself: “WAQAR!! Do you understand what is happening? How do you register in a competition and you do not know anything and you have not even tried it & tasted!”
Two days later I bought my first Aeropress. I didn’t open the box for three more days! I found two Aeropress workshops on Instagram and attended them. From there I set out to try several recipes, and thank God, I settled on my recipe. I made changes to that recipe based on the coffee they offered us at the competition.
So what did it mean to you then when you won?
Honestly, I never expected to win. I participated just for fun. But after I won in the first round, the regionals, I thought to myself: “You did it once and you will do it again.” I had my eyes on the golden Aeropress from that point onwards. It was a goal I set and wanted to achieve that goal.
Most of the competitors were baristas with long histories in coffee. But that made me more determined to win. I don’t think it was my luck that allowed me to win. It was my passion. I went on to win not one, but two Gold awards. I was the champion for the Emirate of Dubai. And then the national UAE champion.
How did you prepare for the World Championship?
To be honest I had a hard time in the beginning because I’m a home barista. I had no sponsors or coach. But I decided not to sit and wait for someone to do something for me. If I want something, I have to do it myself and for myself.
I motivated myself: “This success is yours! No matter how tired you are, no matter how hard you put pressure on yourself, you are a hero, and it is enough for you to be the first Emirati woman to win this title.”
And I set a plan for training. I tried various types of coffee beans from different origins & processors. To challenge myself further, I asked my colleagues at work to tatste my coffee. We contacted a roaster and asked them to provide coffee that had defect in roasting and I trained on that. It was never easy. I will never forget the people in the coffee community who did not fail to provide me with information and various types of coffee to try and train.
It’s a fantastic achievement, especially for a home barista, to have won fourth place at the World Championship. How do you feel about that?
A very indescribable feeling. I feel proud of what I have achieved today, and this is all the result of my efforts and attempts, despite all the difficulties. I feel like I truly deserved this.
What did it feel like competing on the world stage? Did it feel any different to competing in the UAE?
We live in a tolerant country that includes more than 280 nationalities. The world event didn’t feel very different from the UAE event because the national competition contained several nationalities from different countries.
In the national competition, though, I was only representing myself. But at the World Championship, they were champions from different countries, different languages and cultures, and there I was representing an entire country, an entire community. It was a heavy burden. Add to that the fact that I was there alone and had terrible jet lag, it was never easy.
Will you compete again?
In the field of Aeropress, I feel that I have reached the highest level: the first in the Emirate of Dubai, the first in the Emirates, the first in the Middle East, and the fourth in the world. But I still have ambitions to be the world champion, but not now, maybe after two years.
What does the future hold for you?
I have some exclusive news for you and your followers. I will launch Hashasa, a social enterprise for the coffee community, focusing on home baristas and all those who have a passion for coffee. We will take over the brew bar at coffeeshops for a few hours. I loved this experiece in Vancouver. I will also begin my preparation for the Brewers Cup Championship with the support of Emirati Coffee. I’m also excited to be launching my own coffee business. But it’s too early for me to share more information on that. And over and above all of that, I will continue to develop my skills with SCA certifications.
We also filmed the interview. Click here to watch. And follow Waqar on Instagram here. You’ll find Brewing Gadgets on Instgram here.
What I liked about Waqar’s interview was how transparent she was about the lack of support she got during the world championship prep.
The local coffee community needs to come together and recognize where this support is required. Professional baristas are often aided and sponsored by their employees but home baristas don’t have this luxury and the lack of a level playing field is clearly shown.
Her determination to win is a testament to her fervor and is worthy of a standing ovation. Excited to see her coffee projects come to life and wish her the best for the Brewers Cup Championship!