Brighton Coffee Festival hosts the BCF Latte Art Championships every year, showcasing some fantastic talent from around the UK. After the success of the 2022 Championship, we sat down with the winner, Ernie Jr Fernandez to find out a little bit more about him and his experience in the industry.
Hi Ernie, thanks for taking the time to talk to us today, how is your week going so far?
My week has been really busy so far making coffees at pop up events.
So, tell me a bit about your background in the coffee industry and how you came to find yourself at Gentlemen Baristas
I’ve been in the coffee industry for over 13 years now. I started as a baker-barista in a coffee shop and that is how I fell in love with coffee. After 5 years, I decided to focus my career in coffee and I joined one of the leading specialty coffee shops in London at the time called Taylor St. Baristas. I worked there for 4 and a half years where I met and worked with a lot of brilliant coffee professionals. When the company got bought out by Black Sheep Coffee, that’s when I decided it was time to move on and I reached out to one of my old colleagues from Taylor St who just joined The Gentlemen Baristas as the Head of Coffee. They hired me as Head Barista in one of their coffee houses then I slowly transitioned into Coffee Training for the company.
What is your role at Gentlemen Baristas and what does it entail?
I am the Group Barista Trainer for The Gentlemen Baristas. I am responsible for training baristas on retail and wholesale as well as run pop up events from time to time. I am also in charge of equipment maintenance for all our coffee houses.
You came fourth at this year’s UK Latte Art Championships after topping the Semi-Finals round, how do you feel off the back of this result?
I was really happy with my performance in the semi finals and I thought I was not fully prepared for the finals. But I enjoyed every bit of the competition and it was great to share the stage with some of the best coffee people in the UK. It was an amazing experience and I am looking forward to the next one.
Can you tell us about the preparation it takes to compete in a competition like that?
Competition requires patience, perseverance and commitment. As a barista, you need to be prepared 15 to 18 hours of your day in the shop to work and practise for competitions as well as sacrifice some of your day off which is tough. But overall you need someone who can push you to your limits, a coach that can see growth in you and develop you without breaking you. You also need rest and have a clear structure of what you want to focus on during your preparation for the competition. SCA usually releases the tickets 1 and a half months prior to the competition so you need to organise your schedule from developing your patterns to creating your speech to gathering all your tools and equipment and practising your routines. And read and understand the rules!
The Gentlemen Baristas were a big part of the BCF 2022, how did you enjoy the day?
It was amazing! We had so much fun and we met lots of people at BCF. I think BCF is one of the best coffee festivals in the UK, people are generally interested in coffee, lots of coffee professionals and enthusiasts as well as coffee celebrities.
You took home the BCF Latte Art Throwdown crown last year, winning a Sage Barista Pro. Do you feel nervous when competing?
I always feel nervous when competing. I have stage fright! But experience and preparation can overcome pressure and a good mindset can come in handy too.
Can we expect to see you competing again in 2023?
If I have the opportunity I’d love to compete again!
What are your personal aspirations in the coffee industry?
My goal is to learn and experience all the stages of coffee from production to consumption and apply what I learned when I go back home to the Philippines. I have a small piece of land which I am planning to grow coffee trees and start farming in the future.
What advice would you give to a baby barista just getting into the game?
Be curious and ask questions. Taste, taste and taste and find something you will enjoy in the process, may it be latte art or brewing or dialling in coffee or customer service.
Where can we find you most days?
I don’t have a particular shop I stay at regularly since my job requires me to move frequently but you can easily find me on Instagram at @ernie.jr_ . Right now I am at our Piccadilly Coffee House most days.