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Barista Stories: Marie Picoche of MAME Geneva

This week Specialty Coffee Association announced that one of the biggest coffee trade shows – World of Coffee is coming to Geneva in 2025. Well now we know that it is all because everyone needs to meet Marie Picoche, a true gem in the industry that is currently the Head Barista of MAME Geneva.

We often hear and truly believe that coffee championships should be about the personal growth and evolution of the baristas that take part in them. However it so often just appears to be empty words. But… Marie is a true example of a barista who uses championships as a tool for personal growth. As Marie says herself: “To me, every time I’m on stage, it is like taking a picture of everything I have learned through the season. And every time it’s finished, I’m grateful but still, I can’t wait to start again!”.

Marie thanks to her determination, attitude and skill set won the French Barista Championship in 2021 and since then she always comes back to the stage to show something new and inspire. We heard so many times from young baristas that they took part or consider participating in the championships because of Marie. She’s a true inspiration and driver in our industry.

So dear Marie… the stage is yours!

Barista Stories are sponsored by PUQpress. Photo by Lansy Siessie – L’imagerie.

Marie, what is your first memory with coffee? 

I was probably 5 or 6, and my Mom gave me a “Canard”. This is a little French treat where you let a sugar cube absorb coffee, just enough so that it doesn’t dissolve. So that day, I probably annoyed my Mom enough to taste her coffee that smelled “soooo gooood” and she gave me a “Canard”

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

Before coffee, I was studying geography and urban planning and I really loved it! In parallel, I applied for a barista position to pay my bills, in a coworking space that served specialty coffee. From my first day as a barista until now, I always met passionate people who shared their experiences and knowledge with me.

I feel a deep need to learn and improve my skills every day – I’m not a big fan of routine. So the coffee industry is a good match for me as you’ll never get bored: there is always something to discover, try and share along the process.

Tell us a bit about the place you work at. What is your role there?

I’m currently working for Mame in Geneva where we opened two shops a few months ago with Emi Fukahori, Mathieu Theis and Gregory Raymond. At the moment, I’m the Head Barista and I’m responsible for Quality Control. So basically, if you come to Mame Geneva, you can see me behind the bar, training my baristas, or tasting and calibrating coffees – often all at once. 

This is a super interesting position because it keeps nurturing my curiosity every day by being in touch with the Quality Control in Zürich with Boris – our roaster, Mathieu and Emi, but also, my baristas and our guests.

What kind of experience do you want your customers to have when they visit you at the cafe?

At Mame, we have quite a large coffee portfolio available – and this can be confusing to the customer as a first approach. So I like to take it as a game and try to find what coffee they’d enjoy the most by talking with my guests.

If it’s a game, I try to make it fun, kind and open-minded. And progressively, as they come back, I try to pique their curiosity, step by step, through new tastes, new varieties or fermentations, that’s quite a funny endless game.

What is your favourite part of the day in your cafe, and why?

I like to be surprised by a new coffee during my QC, but I love even more to see my barista’s faces discovering it, and giving me their impressions and feedback. I love to calibrate with my teams and I’m happy it happens that often. 

What do you think is the most important quality for a barista to have, and why?

Curiosity and audacity – they come together. I’m quite sad to see a lot of baristas that stop progressing or getting frustrated in their daily life or careers in coffee. 

Yes, being a barista can be redundant, but a good driver to keep improving is to remain curious about what you love.

What are some common misconceptions about our industry that you’ve encountered, and how do you address them?

That the specialty coffee industry is a “niche”, a trend that won’t last – I’d be crazy rich if I had a franc every time someone told me this! To simply answer this, I just smile even more and I serve them the coffee that fits their expectations, and always mention the farm and the country it comes from, the process, and the variety. It takes a second, but it creates a first connection anyway.

To make specialty coffee popular and real, consumers have to connect with their product first through taste of course, and then you can give them more details that make it relatable.  

What are the current trends in cafes in your region? Are there any trends you promote yourself and would like to see more often in other places?

Sadly, I haven’t had a lot of time yet to visit all the coffee shops in Switzerland, that’s next on my to-do list! 

I’m happy to witness the rise of plenty of high-standard micro-roasteries with really strong identities. From the light roasted to the bolder, from the classic profiles to the full-funky processing beans’ menu, all of them carry a statement and they own it. Diversity is good for the market because every guest can find their happy place!

You have some amazing achievements in championships. Can you tell us more about them? What are the next championships you’d like to compete in?

2025 will be my 5th year competing in Barista Championships.

Weirdly, I love to compete in life in general, even though I might be unsure of myself – I’m seriously working on it haha. This put me in a paradoxical position because I crave the comp’ vibe, to meet new passionate people and the teamwork it represents. On the other hand, I am a perfectionist and therefore an anxious person who communicates easily her emotions on stage – the good and sometimes bad. 

So when I won my first time competing in the French Barista Championship in 2021, little did I know that it would do that good to me! My 2021’s and World Coffee Championships in Milano’s theme was quite personal: experimenting with coffee is my driver. It was a good way to start because I mimicked what I do at home: I ferment things, make pastries and I mix funky cocktails. 

2022 was going deeper into the barista’s relation to aromas and 2023 was connecting memories and taste. I’d call these seasons my “little chemist phase”: I love to learn new things and share them – maybe a bit too densely sometimes. 

The one I’m the proudest of is my second place in 2024 because we took my whole training from a different point of view with my coach Mathieu. So the real challenge was that I had to talk less, give a better vibe and own the stage and my concept. We brought a theme that got me out of my comfort zone – coffee can be tasty and healthy with a stunning Laurina from Cafe Granja La Esperanza. I focused more on customer service and being sincerely myself on stage. 

This is my new personal deep-dive and improvement field, and I look forward to 2025!

To me, every time I’m on stage, it is like taking a picture of everything I have learned through the season. And every time it’s finished, I’m grateful but still, I can’t wait to start again!
I promised myself that I’ll stick to barista championships as long as they brings me joy and that I learn through the process. Being a helper (like I was for Mathieu in his preparation for WBC in Busan) this year also makes me feel that someday, I’d like to help other competitors. But of course, I’m interested in Brewers Cup (because I love to brew filters as well eh) and Coffee in Good Spirits (because I love to mix unexpected ingredients).

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

Nothing will go according to your plans – and it’s more than ok! To me, this is an adaptation championship, so just breathe: it’s going to be ok! Just remember that we do this for fun, out of passion and to improve our skills, take it as a bonus.

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

I’d like to go visit some producers that hold a special place in my heart in Colombia to see with my eyes how coffee grows and is processed. I’m quite a bookworm myself, but I’d like to experience it – and I wish every barista could do this once in their career! 

Quick Fire Questions for Marie Picoche:

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

I’ll always recommend trying it before without. But eh, I don’t drink it in the end!

Do you ever take sugar with your coffee?

Nope, not anymore.

Espresso or Filter coffee?

Filter to chill, Espresso to think.

Milky or Black?

99% black, but I enjoy a bombastic milky one sometimes!

Slurp or spit?

Spit – but slurp when I’m surprised.

Do you aim for Sweetness, Acidity, or Body?

Body – everyone relates to it. 

Cake or Pastry with your coffee?

Croissant forever.

Favourite piece of barista equipment?

My best companion: my Tetsu cupping spoon.