Need a good coffee in Bahrain? Just ask Ace Valino
Time Out Bahrain staff
You’ve just been crowned best barista of the MENA region – how are you feeling right now? It’s fantastic! Hearing them call my name was a wonderful feeling – something I truly can’t describe. It was confirmation that my Costa training has helped me to be the best I can be professionally. To be recognised for this, not only in Bahrain but across the entire Middle East and North African region is something I’m extremely proud of.
Your customers must be pleased – do they insist only you make their coffee now? Some of them do, which is incredibly flattering. It’s this kind of response that makes me strive to do my best work. Many of our regular customers even called to congratulate me on my win.
So what did you have to do? How did you win? Honestly, when you’re up on stage with everyone watching, your nerves can really get to you. I just imagined I was at work, standing behind the bar and making coffee the way I would any other day. I’m lucky enough to work with some amazing trainers, whose leadership and guidance helped me to stay focused throughout.
Did you have to practice a lot? What drink did you make? I always practice. It’s true that practice makes perfect. I worked on this drink for several weeks before I achieved the final result. I called my drink the Midnight Snatcher. It’s a ristretto-based coffee, which gives a sweet, woody, aromatic taste and finishes with a spicy kick at the end of your sip.
And you dedicated the drink to your father, why was that? I did indeed. I used pandan leaves in this drink. Pandan is a famous Filipino herb which we include in many traditional dishes, including pudding, ice cream, drinks and of course in our rice. My father used pandan leaves in many of his dishes and I wanted to commemorate his legacy with this drink. I know wherever he is right now, he is proud of my success.
How long have you been working as a barista? I’ve been working at Costa now for 35,040 hours, which translates to just about four years! I moved to Bahrain in 2007, and have never looked back. But overall, I would say I’m a work in progress. I’m learning every day.
How did you qualify for the competition? Have people always liked your coffee? Costa Bahrain held a series of competitions, including the store heat, the area heat, and finally the country heat. I feel fortunate to have come out on top among very tough competitors. Have my customers always liked my coffee? No, not really! I have come a long way over the past four years.
I have one regular customer who really knows her cappuccino; she has been known to send her coffee back if it’s not up to her standards, but last time I served her at our City Centre outlet, she told me how impressed she was. It’s extremely rewarding to find out that people really like my coffee.
So next is the final in London. Are you excited? Nervous? Do you think you can win it? Yes! I’m off to London! I’m definitely excited, but I wouldn’t say I’m nervous. I feel confident, and I’m looking forward to meeting my competitors.
Has your company given you a raise for doing so well? Surely they will want to keep you. Hello, accounting office! Ding! Ding! Ding! Perhaps you could send them a copy of this interview. I feel a lot more optimistic now.
Do you think you will open your own coffee shop one day? I have thought about this. Now I know the business, I think the next step might be opening a Costa franchise of my own. We’ll see what happens.
Ace Valino will take part in the Champion of Champions final at Costa’s London Roastery on October 19. Until then, catch him serving at Costa in Bahrain City Centre (17 179 792).