‘The cream always rises to the top’ - is a saying that couldn’t be more apt than for one Banbridge latte-artist, David Wilson, as he ascends through the heats of the Starbucks barista championships.
David, a past pupil of New-Bridge Integrated College and Coffee Master at Starbucks Banbridge, came first in the Northern Ireland heats.
His success then continued to the regional championships in Edinburgh, where he was tested over four disciplines - bar skills, coffee tasting, signature beverage and a coffee quiz, before taking a first for his signature beverage.
“I was tested on all sorts of things such as my coffee knowledge and presentation of beverages,” said David.
“As part of it, I had to design my own signature beverage and it was this that won for the region. I could use anything I wanted from the store, and the drink I created was a chocolate caramel flat white, so I called it a ‘charamel’!
“Some people had designed very elaborate drinks, but I decided to try and keep mine simple and to the point - something that could be easily made on a busy Saturday and this idea seemed to appeal to the judges.
“I loved taking part in the competition. You take back so much - you get so many fresh ideas and gain so much confidence in your own skills.”
Handcrafting deliciously perfect beverages is something David takes a particular pride in and it requires great attention to detail.
“It’s all about the milk” said David, “it needs to be perfect with no bubbles and even the way you pour it is important.
“The designs are all then produced free hand - no stencils are used. It takes time to learn but once you have it mastered, it stays with you.
“I love it when customers are watching you make a design - it’s a coffee they will remember”.
But a little bit like ice sculptures, the artistic work doesn’t last too long.
David said: “It stays at the top of your drink for only a moment and then its gone, but nonetheless for me it’s still important to present the perfect drink.
David unbelievably didn’t like coffee when he first started work in Starbucks, but said: “now I get into work and can’t wait for my first coffee of the day - it definitely is one of those tastes that is acquired.
He started work in the Banbridge branch, only as part of a gap year plan. He said: “After sitting A levels at New-Bridge, I decided to take a year out, work for a bit and try to earn some money to buy a car before going onto university. “But now I know this is a real career path for me, I just can’t imagine leaving now.”