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Barista Stories: Daniel Horbat of Sumo Coffee Roasters, Dublin

Meet Daniel Horbat, originally coming from Romania, he established his home and business in Dublin, Ireland. Daniel has been involved in the coffee industry for more than 20 years and pours his experience into Sumo Coffee Roasters which he co-owns with his partner Alexandra.

Over the years Daniel took part in multiple coffee championships very often landing on the podium. Daniel won the Irish Cup Tasting Championship three times – in 2016, 2018 and 2019. He was 3rd at Coffee Masters 2018 and European Tea Championship the same year. The cherry on the top is the 2019 World Cup Tasters Champion title that Daniel snatched in style in Berlin. Daniel also won the Irish Brewers Cup this year and represented Ireland during WBrC Chicago.

Even with all these titles, Daniel is one of the most down-to-Earth and humble coffee professionals we know. He grows his career with respect for everyone around. He strives to educate the consumers about the coffee growers’ craft and drives baristas to appreciate and tell the story behind each bean.

Barista Stories are sponsored by PUQpress.

Daniel, what is your first memory with coffee? 

My first memory with coffee was trying to impress my boss (and the ladies!) with basic latte art when I started as a bartender, where we also had a coffee machine.

​​​​​What inspired you to pursue a career in the coffee industry, and how did you get started? What did you do before coffee?

Initially, I needed money after college, so I started working with commodity coffee and mixology as a bartender. But discovering specialty coffee in 2012 changed everything for me. I got my first job in a coffee shop and started learning and practising as much as possible.

Tell us a bit about Sumo Coffee Roasters.

Sumo Coffee Roasters was founded in 2020 alongside my partner Alexandra. It is a transparent and ethical business celebrating every bean, prioritizing direct trade, transparency and fair prices for the hard work of coffee producers worldwide. From childhood memories of watching sumo wrestling to the discipline and sacrifice required for championship success, every aspect of Sumo Coffee Roasters reflects our values and dedication.

Besides roasting, I help Alex with pretty much everything in between since there’s only the two of us working in the roastery.

What kind of experience do you want your customers to have when they try your coffee?

When someone sips our coffee, I want them to feel like they’re tasting a little piece of the journey behind it all. I hope they sense the dedication and love poured into every bean by the producers who grow them. I want them to understand the story behind each cup, and to see the hard work and passion that goes into every step. And most of all, I want them to enjoy the distinct flavours and special qualities that make each cup unique.

How do you stay motivated and inspired to keep improving your coffee-making and roasting skills?

I keep my coffee game strong by drawing inspiration from unexpected places, like the discipline and dedication I see in sumo wrestling. Just like those wrestlers, I’m determined to keep getting better at what I do. And staying curious about coffee helps too—I’m always on the lookout for new things to learn and explore in the world of coffee.

How did your life change after winning the World Cup Tasters Championship?

Winning the World Cup Tasters Championship wasn’t just a trophy on the shelf—it sparked a big change in my life. When the pandemic hit in 2020, I found myself at a crossroads. I left my job at a specialty café in Dublin to pursue something new, but with travel restrictions, those plans fell through.

That’s when Sumo Coffee Roasters was born. With no job and a lot of determination, my fiancée and I decided to take a leap of faith. We poured our savings into creating a business that would not only satisfy our love for coffee but also make a positive impact on the industry. We wanted to shine a light on the hard work and passion of coffee growers and share their stories with the world. It’s been a journey filled with challenges, but knowing that we’re making a difference keeps us going every day.

You had a break from competing. What made you compete in the Brewers Cup this year?

Taking a break from competing made me realize that I missed the thrill of it all.
So, what got me back in the game for the Brewers Cup this year?
Well, I believe in leading by example. If I want to motivate others to step up and give it their all, I have to show them that it’s possible. Preparing for a competition is a huge learning process, and competing isn’t just about winning – it’s about taking on challenges, growing from them, and also trying because most of people don’t even try.

And then you won the Brewers Cup Nationals in beautiful style! Congratulations! How did you approach the preparations for WBrC Chicago?

Wow, thank you so much! Winning the Nationals was an incredible experience. When it came to preparing for WBrC Chicago, I knew I had to bring my A-game.

I spent countless hours fine-tuning my pouring technique, and after hundreds of brews between myself and my coaches, Vag and Matteo, I decided that I wanted to keep the same coffee. Not only that it was a solid coffee, but it perfectly captured the message I wanted to share with the world.

You had an amazing message during your Open Service. Can you tell us more about it?

My message was about the threat of climate change to Arabica coffee production, which is declining, and the efforts of producers to address this challenge, by exploring new approaches to sustain coffee production in the midst of climate change.

My example of innovation in coffee cultivation was Don Rigoberto from Cafe Granja La Esperanza in Colombia. Don Rigoberto’s approach involves creating new coffee varieties that are both high-yielding and have exceptional flavor profiles – and one of his masterpieces is the hybrid CGLE-17, which is a cross between Geisha and Caturra varieties, that I used in my routine. 

What is in your opinion the most important thing to have in mind when you start to compete in coffee championships?

When you’re gearing up to compete in coffee championships, keeping a few key things in mind can make all the difference.

First off, stay focused on your goals and don’t let distractions throw you off track. Stay humble, remembering that everyone starts somewhere and there’s always room to improve. Trust in yourself and your abilities—you’ve got this! And perhaps most importantly, approach each competition as a chance to learn and grow. Whether you win or not, every experience is an opportunity to become a better barista and competitor. 

What coffee challenges are you looking forward to? Any new projects or collaborations?

I’m taking a break from competing this year. My main focus is on growing our business and soaking up as many precious moments as I can with my little girl, Rose.

Even though I won’t be competing myself, I’m excited to stay involved by coaching and supporting my fiancée, Alex, to get her first gold in Cup Tasting.

We’ve got big plans in the works, including moving and expanding our roastery, giving our brand a fresh new look, and hopefully opening our very first café. There’s a lot to look forward to, and I can’t wait to see where this journey takes us!

Quick Fire Questions for Daniel Horbat:

Would you serve filter coffee with milk if asked for it?


Do you ever take sugar with your coffee?


Espresso or Filter coffee?

Filter coffee.

Milky or Black?


Slurp or spit?


Do you aim for Sweetness, Acidity, or Body?


Favourite piece of barista equipment?

My hand grinder.