Vaiva Maskova, now at Caravan, was working at Harris + Hoole when she competed in the 2014 Barista Championships in Lithuania and conquered the field – we talked to her about the competition and how she started her career.
How did you get involved in coffee?
I worked as a barista for six months in a coffee chain back in Lithuania. I left to go to university, but soon realised that it was not for me, so in 2012 I moved to London. Within days I got a job at Harris + Hoole, speciality coffee chain.
Who is your biggest inspiration in the coffee world?
Ieva Malijauskaite, who hired and trained me back in Lithuania, became Lithuanian Latte art champion in 2013 (14th in the world). She always inspired me with her love for coffee and her stories about the barista championships stayed with me.
Ieva and her partner, Domas, opened a roastery – “Taste Map” – with the aim not only to roast high quality coffee, but also to educate Lithuanian people about the coffee culture. They’ve always been my greatest coffee inspiration.
What motivated you to enter the Barista Championships?
I’ve always been a competitive type, so with the help of Dennis Tutbury (barista trainer at Harris + Hoole), who recognised my talent a year ago, we worked towards the victory while staying late five days a week after work and just working on the technical aspects of my routine while trying to come up with a solid concept for it.
How did you prepare for the competition?
Home ground seemed as a good choice for my first national barista competition.
Only two weeks left until my competition day I switched my coffee to Union Hand Roasted’s Los Lajones from Panama. I’ve been privileged to meet Graciano Cruz, always been a fan of his farming practices that use the minimum of natural resources. The natural process is reflected in the final cup – strawberries and chocolate all the way.
How did it go on the day?
I picked up two kilograms of coffee from Union only a week before my competition, was focusing all good thoughts on it, so it would be rested enough on the day. Unfortunately, due to some organisational issues, I had to dial in my coffee on stage, during my 15min preparation time. There were no strawberries or chocolate cream, but – hey! – green apple and red berries worked well for me 🙂 I knew the story behind my coffee inside out, knew my routine and goals, so no major hiccups on stage!
When I was standing on stage with another competitor with the head judge between us, holding our hands to raise the winner’s, my heart was racing as crazy. The moment my arm was up in the air, tears came out of my eyes because I was never brave enough to actually consider winning. I wanted it but, probably, didn’t want to jinx it.
The best thing about winning is the feeling you get when it’s announced, the confidence you gain and the doors that open for you.
So the next big thing for me is the world championship as I tell everyone – finally playing with the big kids.
Congratulations Vaiva, and good luck in the WBC in Rimini!