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Barista Stories: Ștefan Manole of Sloane Coffee, Bucharest

From the theatre stage and career in Criminology to the World stage of Coffee in Good Spirits Championship. Ladies and Gentlemen – Ștefan Manole. Hailing from the city of Iași, where Ștefan spent most of his early years in his mother’s coffee shop discovering thereby a new world that would compell him later. He is truly passionate about coffee and people, which makes him a perfect person for the role of Head Barista and Event Manager at the established Sloane Coffee roastery in Bucharest.

Ștefan was also one of the first championship competitors, with whom we had a chance to discuss the topic of stress and mental load at championships both for the participants, judges and organisers. It is a topic dear to us and also Ștefan is verbal about it. It’s so important to develop your skills in a wholesome coffee community, supported by a team that understands healthy competition and doesn’t put unnecessary pressure on you. Championships aren’t easy, they are challenges after all but like in sports the aspect of mental health is crucial.

Even though Ștefan has amazing accomplishments in championships such as 9th place on the World Coffee in Good Spirits in Taipei, he still is the biggest cheerleader for his colleagues and friends when they compete! As he says himself, such an attitude not only creates a supportive community but also helps him enjoy competing more.

Barista Stories are sponsored by PUQpress.

Ștefan, what is your first memory of coffee? 

For my first memory of specialty coffee – I was out with some friends, and they suggested going to a specialised coffee shop. I didn’t drink coffee at all at that time, but I ordered an espresso anyway. I was not too fond of it, and the barista who served me saw that and immediately came to see what was happening.

This moment easily turned into one of my most prized memories. She told me that the sourness that I felt was the natural characteristic of that specific lot of Ethiopian coffee. The “Why?” and the “This is interesting!” that popped into my head are the main motivations of everything that unfolded since then.

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

Growing up in my mother’s cafe had a huge impact on my professional desires, and even though I was not a coffee drinker until I started to work with it, I really enjoyed the atmosphere a café can create.

Before getting myself into coffee I was pursuing my interests in theatre, public speaking and cultural events, all while getting myself ready to study Criminology in the UK. 

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

Sloane Coffee is a roastery established in Bucharest in 2016 by Teodora Pitiș and is was honestly, the place where I was aiming to be when I started in specialty coffee. In 2020, when the flagship store was opened on Calea Victoriei in Bucharest. I was happy and proud to be the first new team member who was going to be part of shaping such a great team and building the experience. My role is to inspire my colleagues while maintaining a great connection with our guests, setting everything for our events and preparing for championships. 

You’re responsible for events at Sloane. Can you let us know what do you like the most in your duties and tasks?

When it comes to events my favourite aspect is planning, and making sure that the brand image of Sloane is well-established and easy to connect to for everyone.

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

My team. I get asked a lot of questions because my colleagues are always curious and eager to learn which always puts me in a position to evaluate my coffee knowledge. I’m a pretty big nerd anyway so if I’m handed books I’ll pretty much shut up and read. 

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

Single dosing – in our cafes we simultaneously work with all the roastery’s wholesale offer, which means that we serve about 15 to 18 different coffee lots per day. I’m very enthusiastic to be working with such a challenging coffee-making system because it made me question, evaluate and learn new ways to approach coffee extraction and consistency. 

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?

Thank you! I’m very proud of my achievements, at the same time they’ve totally changed my perspective of what it means to be a professional in this field. Nowadays I think that it is more suitable for me to navigate this field of work with the same discipline and dedication as a professional athlete.

I am determined to compete in Coffee in Good Spirits again, improve my achievement and further my learning. Next would be the Brewers Cup and Barista Championship. And maybe World Class as I feel the world of mixology is as complex and full of exciting possibilities.

What inspired you to participate in the Coffee in Good Spirit Championship, and what was the preparation process like?

CiGS has always been my main interest as the idea of coffee cocktails is so intriguing to me. I also fondly remember the most popular drink which was served in my mother’s cafe, it was a drink with coffee and Sambuca. In the preparation process, I did a lot of reading and experimenting with different ingredients and different preparation methods, which was a lot of fun. 

How did it feel to compete on the CiGS World Stage?

Overwhelming, but so manageable, now that I know how to approach it. At the same time, I absolutely loved sharing the Stage with so many dedicated professionals in our field, I’ve had great conversations backstage, which led to developing good relationships with fellow competitors from all over the world. Also, I’m always saying to my colleagues that the best part of competing is the debriefing.

Could you elaborate on the coffee cocktails you presented during the competition? What inspired their creation?

I had the great opportunity to work with Manos Mamakis and get myself into his world of flavour matrixes and great bar culture. One of the coolest ideas we worked with was bringing the umami flavour into a coffee cocktail, but also creating multi-layered flavour experiences through very careful preparation of ingredients. This was all inspired by coffee as you’ll always have a plethora of sensory stimuli while analyzing it, a little something I got from watching Teodora use her Q-grading skills in the cupping room.

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

I know I have to get myself into roasting at some point. I feel like this will fill a huge gap in my understanding of coffee extraction. Also, I’d like to get more into chemistry and find ways to bridge it with coffee and cocktail making.

Quick Fire Questions for Ștefan Manole:

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.

Do you aim for Sweetness, Acidity, or Body?


Milky or Black?


Slurp or spit?


Sit in or Take Away?

Sit in.

Favourite alcohol to pair with coffee?


Favourite piece of barista equipment? 

The refractometer.