May 28, 2015 Coffee & Company

Starbucks Coffee Masters Share Passion for Coffee

There are more than 5,000 active Coffee Masters in Starbucks® stores around the world. Some partners (employees) embark on the coffee education program individually, others engage as teams, but each journey is unique.

Every new barista at Starbucks learns about the company's core product - from the history of coffee to the way coffee is roasted and prepared. 

For more than a decade, Starbucks partners have been certified as Coffee Masters after completing coursework and an exploration of Starbucks coffees. They study Starbucks core coffees, such as French Roast and Pike Place® Roast, and rare Starbucks Reserve® coffees. The Coffee Master program acknowledges their knowledge and skill with the special designation of the black apron after they pass written and taste tests. 

“Starbucks customers and partners seek out Coffee Masters for their expertise, whether it’s finding a new favorite beverage or pairing suggestion, or learning how to brew coffee at home,” said David Carter, who manages Starbucks Coffee Master program.

Meet a Coffee Master

Vivian Fonseca was part of Starbucks first team of baristas when it opened its first store in Brazil back in 2006. She's a nine-year partner in Starbucks operations team and Coffee Master based in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Fonseca earned a law degree, worked as a lawyer, and studied for civil service examinations but felt that work was unfulfilling. At the time, she and her boyfriend (now her husband) spent time in coffee shops, and dreamed about opening their own.

“I decided that before I opened my own café, I should work as a barista to understand the operation and get as many skills as I could. Then I saw that Starbucks was coming to Brazil. I was hired with the first team of baristas and fell in love with the company," she said. "I decided to grow a career here.”

Fonseca remembers her first coffee tasting during Starbucks barista training.

“My coffee passion started when I tasted Ethiopia Sidamo,” Fonseca said. “From that moment I became a coffee lover. I wanted to become a Coffee Master because I wanted to learn, share and inspire.”

Fonseca immersed herself in the world of coffee. She studied everything from the importance of geography and agriculture, to Starbucks ethical sourcing and roasting practices. She practiced how to first smell the coffee to pick up on aromatic notes, to slurp the coffee across the entire palate, and locate the coffee’s weight and feel in the mouth.

She began to describe the coffees, comparing aroma, acidity, body, flavor and growing regions. At the end of her six-month program, she completed a written exam and successfully described coffees in a blind tasting. 

“I was honored and proud when I received my black apron,” she said. “I developed so much in terms of my understanding of coffee and the company. It has made me more confident to talk about coffee to our partners and customers.” 

A Page from the Coffee Master Journal

In a chapter on Coffee Agriculture, here is section on "The Formation of Coffee Cherries."

A coffee tree will flower and produce coffee cherries once a year. This happens at different times around the globe as each growing region passes from spring’s flowers to fall’s harvest.

Flowering - Coffee trees typically blossom once a year. The buds bloom into jasmine-scented flowers often triggered by a long rain.

Ripening - After the flowers fall off the tree, clusters of green cherries form. As the coffee cherries ripen, they begin to turn red. The darker red the cherry, the sweeter the fruit and the more developed the coffee bean inside. It takes nine months from the time a coffee tree flowers to producing ripe cherries ready for picking.

Harvesting - Coffee grown in lower elevation can be harvested by picking machines rolling through flat fields, but high-quality coffee grows on much steeper terrain and requires handpicking. 

Meet another Starbucks Coffee Master here: Carrying the Dreams of Starbucks China Partners on Her Shoulders

For more information on this story, contact the Starbucks Newsroom