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Barista Stories: Savina Giachgia of Nestle Professional, Thessaloniki

Meet Savina Giachgia, a 30-year-old true coffee professional, originally from picturesque Larissa but currently residing in Thessaloniki where she works at Nestle Professional and also creates beautiful ceramics at One Drop Ceramics.

In 2022 Savina competed for the first time in Brewers Cup, stole the hearts of both the audience and judges and a few months later represented Greece on the World Stage in Athens. She became the V-ce World Brewers Cup Champion and since then has travelled the world to share her passion and knowledge.

Savina is a perfect example of a competitor who understood that getting the title is not the end of the journey. After all coffee champions are the ambassadors of the whole industry and can have a real impact on propagating specialty coffee, motivate young baristas to grow and stay in the field, be the change and promote positive trends in the world of coffee.

Moreover, we have a feeling that Savina will keep inspiring and leading in the industry long after her reign as a World V-ce champion!

Barista Stories are sponsored by PUQpress.

Savina, what is your first memory of coffee? 

A memorable moment I recall from my beginning in the coffee industry. It was with my first instructor. We were talking about the grind size and touching different samples of ground coffee in order to match the grind size with the suitable brewing method.

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

I studied speech and language therapy and I’ve been working as a photographer in the past. I have also been a salesperson and a manager in different industries.

My first ever working experience with coffee was when I decided to take a step back and give myself time to understand what I really wanted to do. During this period a friend asked me if I wanted to join their team in a specialty coffee shop. I was excited since I needed to have an income until I made my final career decision.

Then I went to my first barista training session to be prepared for the work and this is how it all started. I was so indulged in learning about the bean-to-cup coffee journey that I couldn’t wait to learn more day by day. I started reading books about the origins and their terroir and then I realized how many things are behind a typical bag of coffee and how many people have been working for our daily dose of pleasure. This got me truly inspired and made me appreciate coffee more.

Tell us about your current work and projects you are involved in.

In my current role, I’m involved in quality control, coffee trials for potential customers, training and some internal projects. I’m actually in continuous collaboration both with sales and marketing. I think that through this you can improve the way coffee is served and of course share your passion.

Soon I am about to complete my expertise in sustainability in coffee, which is something that I see as a MUST nowadays. I also travel a lot after the World Championship in order to collaborate with companies and people who share the same passion for coffee.

    And how about One Drop ceramics? What is unique about these beautiful pieces of ceramics?

    One Drop Ceramics is a project of mine which started after my first year in pottery lessons. I liked it so much as a hobby that I decided to combine my two interests and create 100% handmade coffee cups. 
    Apart from cups, together with my partner, we create even more kitchenware like plates or decorative items.

    My next goal is a small production of ceramic cupping bowls. In ceramics, you create something using pure and basic materials such as water and soil and you complete your creation with the help of fire. It’s something I liken to the planting of coffee beans in the soil that you then process and then roast to make it consumable. I enjoy the fact that something so creative also works psychotherapeutically.

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

    The world of coffee is full of new techniques and innovation. Connecting with other coffee enthusiasts, either locally or online, participating in forums, attending coffee events, sharing experiences, and tips, and setting new goals can be highly motivating.

    I love to stay informed about the latest trends in the coffee industry and interacting with professionals can be both educational and inspiring, as you are in a continuous learning journey.

    And of course the competition part, the opportunity to showcase your skills in a competitive setting can be a powerful motivator. Even if you don’t win, the experience can be highly enriching.

    You have some amazing achievements in the championships. Can you tell us more about them?

    My journey in competitions started when I decided to compete in the Nationals of the Brewers Cup after some motivation from my coach. It was something that I always wanted to do and having someone believing in me was exactly what I needed to make the decision. 

    I started the preparations in September 2022 after winning the preliminary phase and I competed in the finals of 2023.  It was a great self-development journey that ended up achieving first place at the Nationals. 

    What was next? Same spirit, the same team, and an even higher and more demanding level of expertise to be well prepared for the World stage. Hard work pays off and that is how we did to reach the top of the World. The second place in the World Brewers Cup 2023 is a dream that came true with my first participation ever.

    How did it feel to compete on the World Brewers Cup stage? What were some of the key challenges you faced during the competition, and how did you overcome them?

    You have to be really quick and organized. Stay focused and pay attention to detail! You have to be consistent and accurate. But life continues to happen and you should not be affected by things that might have been really important for you in your normal life. You have to deal with your failures, tiredness, and arguments, and stay focused on your team’s common goal.

    My coaches were really important to me during this period as they shared both their knowledge and guidance, as far as their valuable mental support. They were always available to manage my anguish and never let me be disappointed or quit the process. 

    In the competitive environment of the World Brewers Cup, innovation and quality are key. What unique elements did you incorporate into your presentation that set you apart?

    Every detail matters and that’s why I carefully selected all my ‘weapons’. First of all, it was the choice of the coffees I combined that generated a unique cup profile. And that was the main concept, the generation of coffee flavours that didn’t exist before the combination of the two amazing coffee species I chose to use. My water was custom-made to highlight my coffee’s great attributes and all of my equipment was selected to be serviceable, and innovative.

    Above all, I strongly believe that it is one’s energy and passion that makes him/her shine on stage. 

    Winning 2nd place on a global stage is an incredible accomplishment. How has this achievement impacted your career and personal growth as a coffee professional?

    Competitions challenge you to become a better version of yourself, trying to achieve the goals you set. Researching, experimenting, continuously practising, keeping my focus on the target, and never quitting my dream, it all ends up in personal growth! I now have the opportunity to travel more and be in touch with coffee professionals and coffee lovers around the world. Great collaborations and interesting proposals reach me and my love for coffee and I already enjoy this new reality.

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

    You have to think of competitions as an opportunity for growth. Keep in mind that it is a demanding process that requires the 100% passionate version of yourself and never underestimate your opponents. They are all trying their best. Stay focused and love what you do every single day. This will help you fight for the goal you have set and become better first for yourself and then for the coffee industry.

    What role does sustainability play in your approach to coffee sourcing and brewing? How do you prioritize ethical practices in your profession?

    Sustainability issues start from the very first time a farmer plants a coffee tree. It is really difficult to interact with coffee in its whole farming process and control all parameters during processing that could be harmful in terms of nature.

    Having done my research in this, I could say that it is really difficult to apply sustainable procedures in most of the coffee origins but it is not impossible, as ongoing research and innovation in the coffee industry focus on developing more sustainable and efficient management technologies.

    Moreover, nowadays, there are certifications to make sure that you drink a sustainable product. As consumers, we need to embrace fair trade practices.

    Looking ahead, what are your aspirations and goals within the specialty coffee industry? Are there any new projects or ventures on the horizon?

    I would like to compete again as I really felt that I improved myself through my participation and got inspired by the innovation in the coffee industry.

    I am interested in continuing to grow as a professional and I would like to collaborate in order to bring my own series of innovative brewing products into the amazing world of coffee. At the end of the day, the most important thing is to stay creative and find ways to express ourselves.

    Quick Fire Questions for Savina Giachgia:

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

    Sure, the customer is always right…

    Do you ever take sugar with your coffee?

    When the day is bitter, it may help.

    Do you aim for Sweetness, Acidity, or Body?

    Balance, always!

    Milky or Black?

    Both. Depends on the skills of the barista.

    Slurp or spit?

    Both. Depends on the purpose.

    Conical or flat-bottom brewers?

    Both. Adjusting brewing variables is my favourite part. 

    Immersion or percolation?

    Percolation. I like the risk factor.

    Cake or Pastry with your coffee?

    Lemon tart paired with African origins.

    Favourite piece of barista equipment?