Teddy Nzama — full of beans about working as a barista
Teddy Nzama is a barista with Starbucks
Tell me how you became a barista.
My grandmother suggested I apply to the Ciro Coffee Academy in Mount Edgecombe. I did a barista course there for three months, and after that I was a qualified barista.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I enjoy the human connection with my customers, and making them feel special.
What makes you a good barista?
You need good communication skills, and you have to be willing to learn from everyone around you.
Coffee has become my passion, the many different types of it, the styles of preparing it — each of which produces its own unique taste profile.
I practised the art of great coffee-making and started entering the in-store competitions, which were followed by the regional and then national barista championships.
In 2018, I came second in the national championships. I then set my heart on winning the national competition in 2019, which I did.
What did it mean for you to win the Starbucks Barista Challenge in 2019, and what important lessons did you learn while taking part in the challenge?
It meant everything to me, and it gave me an opportunity to inspire my partners across the country and globally. The lesson I have learnt is in the coffee industry you will never be perfect, and I have to remain humble.
The baristas at Starbucks always seem to be so cool-headed and able to go with the flow. What does stress you out at work?
Someone who is not fully committed to delivering world-class service to customers, because people come to Starbucks to have that Starbucks experience.
How has lockdown affected you, and what would be your lockdown takeaways?
It has affected me drastically because I couldn’t go on the trips that I won — to Italy and Rwanda.
But I have learnt how to appreciate the small things in life and be grateful for what I do have.
What coffee do you order when you go out?
I order a filter coffee because I’m always looking for the flavour profile of the coffee, and through a filter coffee I can explore coffee to the core.
What did you want to be when you were a child?
I wanted to be an accountant because my parents wanted me to have a stable career, but I really wanted to be a professional cricket player because I was so good at sports.
What advice do you have for SA's recent matriculants?
The advice I can give recent matriculants is that they should not postpone furthering their studies due to the current pandemic as they can still further their education through online learning, or they could also try short courses that could give them the tools to pursue
their chosen career or their passion.
Young people beginning a career in the coffee industry should grab every opportunity with both hands as life is short, so make the most of the time you have and use the opportunities you are given.