Please Try again!
The Secret to Finding Success in an Unconventional Career From a Coffee Champion

The Secret to Finding Success in an Unconventional Career From a Coffee Champion

There are people who dream big and then there are people who turn their big dreams into reality. Delhi girl Geetu Mohnani did exactly that. As a young girl, coffee was the only thing that fascinated her. She not only wanted to master the art of brewing coffee but also become a world coffee champion. She thus embarked on the journey of turning her dream into action.

Today, she is the only female Starbucks partner and also the only Indian to ever make it to the top three at the Annual Barista Championship 2017. Her beverage crafting skills and effervescent style won many hearts and a trip to Seatle to study about the heritage of Starbucks coffee. This young coffee connoisseur shares with us her success story and also some interesting brewing hacks.

1. Please tell us about your journey and how did you get initiated into the world of coffee brewing?

Ever since my college days, I have been a coffee lover and have always been fascinated with the different techniques of brewing coffee and wondered what it would be like to actually master this art. I was fortunate to get employed at a Starbucks Store in Delhi through a Campus placement where I currently function as Store Manager.

2. You made a rather unconventional career choice in a country like India, which is obsessed with engineering and medicine as the most sought after career options. When did you decide to become a brewer and what professional course/institute did you enrol into to become a brewer?

Right from when we were young, my parents have always been supportive of and encouraged me and my siblings to follow our passion at the time of picking our career options. For me, coffee has been my love and my passion from a young age and so it was inevitable that I chose to work in this field and with a brand like Starbucks. From the day I joined till date, I have learned a lot more about coffee and also the stories behind the journey of each bean. It gives me great pride and joy to be able to showcase my skills and love for coffee craft to my customers every single day. Coupled with this is the privilege of working with extremely supportive fellow partners and senior managers who have made this unconventional career a fun and ever growing experience.

One of the most incredible experiences I will cherish forever has been my journey towards becoming a Starbucks Coffee Master. It involves a training process covering a period of 3 months that is divided into 3 parts - the first is about coffee knowledge while the second and third revolve around the implementation of our learnings in daily work.

3. To become a 'brewing aficionado' is not easy. There are a lot of steps involved to get to a stage when you finally get to wrap a black apron around yourself. Please tell us about the process.

A black apron on a Starbucks Partner signifies their prestigious role as a Coffee Master - an expert in all things coffee who has been trained to be the best of the best. To become a Starbucks Coffee Master, one needs to pass rigorous levels of training covering a period of 3 months that involve individual evaluations of our coffee knowledge by experts, demonstration of passion and alignment with the Starbucks mission. During my Coffee Master journey, I was fortunate to be a part of the coffee origin trip to the plantations in Coorg, Karnataka to get an advanced first-hand coffee experience.

4. Please share a few coffee brewing hacks with us.

When brewing coffee at home, always remember the 4 fundamentals: Proportion, Grind, Water, and Freshness. These four simple things can make a huge difference to your cup of coffee! If the right amount of coffee is ground and then brewed using the correct technique for the right amount of time, you will have yourself the perfect cup of coffee every time.

  • Remember, the best coffee - thick, rich and truest to its flavour profile - is made in a traditional coffee press.
  • Coffee is 98 percent water. The type of water used when brewing coffee greatly affects the final taste. So naturally, always use clean, fresh water that is filtered or free of impurities
  • Grind your coffee just prior to your brewing; this will bring out the freshness at its best and enhance your experience of home brewing.
  • Everybody likes their coffee brewed different - some like it strong, some prefer it lighter. My advice would be to use a ratio of 10gms coffee to 180ml of water and voila! - You have yourself the perfect cup of coffee!

5. What's the trick to get the maximum flavour from coffee?

There is a tremendous amount of hard work and care that goes into producing the different coffee blends that are available to us today at any Starbucks store. Knowing the depth of the procedures that are involved in growing each coffee bean, I would urge every coffee lover to handle these beans with respect and compassion. If the right amount of coffee is ground and then brewed using the correct technique for the right amount of time, you will have yourself the perfect cup of coffee every time.

6. How to taste coffee best. Please tell us about the process of 'cupping' or coffee tasting. (about skimming, aroma, acidity in coffee, etc)

As mentioned before, there is a tremendous amount of hard work and care that goes into producing different coffee blends. Every coffee lover should handle these beans with respect and compassion. Coffee is not just a beverage, it is an experience and experiencing coffee is truly an art. It is important to ensure that you are able to determine the body, flavour, aroma and acidity of the coffee under consideration.

7. Please share 5 best Indian food pairings that go well with coffee

Indian cuisine is one of the most exciting and diverse cuisines in the world with its variety of delicious flavours and aromas. The core coffees available at our Starbucks stores are of different roast profiles and go well with varied food items.

  • 1.The India Estates Blend pairs very well with herbs and nuts - a great option to go for with this blend is a basil tomato sandwich
  • 2.The Kenya coffee blend is juicy and has very citrusy flavours - this should be accompanied with a lemon tart/natural food such as berries, raisins and fruits.
  • 3.Go for a plain chocolate/Indian dessert with our roasty and sweet Italian Roast Blend
  • 4.Sumatra coffee is complemented perfectly with foods like a mushroom sandwich
  • 5.Smooth blends like Pike Place Roast from Latin America with fruit cereals and fruit pastries
  • 6. Light coffees such as Veranda Blendâ„¢ from Latin America pair well with berry desserts, lemon desserts, and milk chocolate

8. What's your plan next?

Having recently won third place at the Annual International Barista Championship at the CAP level, I am one of the lucky ones to have been given an opportunity to visit the birth place of Starbucks - Seattle, for a Coffee Heritage Experience in the coming weeks. Being close to a dream come true, I look forward to it with a lot of excitement. Moving forward, I then plan on sharing all my learnings I have gathered through my experience at the National Level with my fellow partners to help them make every moment special for our customers. In the long-term, I aspire to be a Coffee Ambassador for Tata Starbucks and as leader in all things coffee.

(With inputs from S. Shanthi)

(Also read: Accomplish Any Goal Easily By Making It Public)

Contribute to LifeHacker

Write for Us

Subscribe for latest stories