Elizaveta Vagabova and Irina Sharipova traveled from St. Petersburg, Russia to compete in The Barista League: Zagreb. It was neither of their first times competing in the competition, in fact, in was Irina’s second time taking home the trophy! A Barista League first! It was a pleasure to get to sit down with them before the weekend was over.
ANGELA FERRARA [THE BARISTA LEAGUE]: Where do you both work?
IRINA SHARIPOVA: I work at Northwest Coffee Company, Mad Espresso Team, and St. Petersburg School of Coffee. Three projects.
STEVEN MOLONEY [THE BARISTA LEAGUE]: What do you for each?
IS: For Northwest I do QC and green coffee buying. For Mad Espresso Team I do QC, HR for their baristas, Training, and Social Media. Also I am an SCA Certified Trainer and I teach at St. Petersburg School of Coffee.
AF: That’s a lot of different stuff!
IS: Yes! Multi-tasking!
ELIZAVETA VAGABOVA: I’m from Coffee Department. It’s a company that roasts coffee and a coffee shop. I do Quality Control.
AF: Do you both work bar shifts?
IS: Not really. I used to work as a barista!
SM: When was your last time behind the bar?
EV: I don’t know. But I worked behind the bar in a craft beer bar one year ago! Haha
IS: It’s hard to say because most of the time I’m either in the coffee shop or in the training center… and sometimes we have events where I’ll have to serve coffee.
AF: How did you first hear about The Barista League?
IS: Ooh. Actually, that’s funny. I don’t remember how come I went to Helsinki. Probably I read something on the internet and when I see a coffee event in Helsinki (because Helsinki is nearby St. Petersburg - just about 5 hours by car) I said “Okay'“. “[A] Coffee event. Not so many strict rules. So lets compete. Why not? And hang out with other coffee people.”
SM: Irina’s team in Helsinki did an upside down Aeropress.
IS: Yes yes! You remember that??
SM: Like they had it upside down and squeezed it so it ran down and into the cup like a fountain.
IS: Yeah, yeah! It was a funny competition actually. And then I started to speak about it in every corner, like guys do you know this competition, there is no rules, there is free beer and nice people. Because you know people are always like, ‘yeh we are so competitive, don’t talk with each other, we solve a lot of secrets, no alcohol.’ So I fell in love with this competition when I saw it.
EV: I like The Barista League and the Aeropress Championships.
SM: So anything with lots of beer, basically??
IS: Yes! It’s a rule to have beer. I organized the St. Petersburg regional Aeropress Championships and Elizaveta won!
AF: Elizaveta, do you remember how you first heard about The Barista League?
EV: I visited my first Barista League two years ago in Berlin. It was so fun. I remember drunk Aeropress, with the strange glasses. It was really funny. And my first time competing was in Helsingborg. And then I saw that I should be here in Zagreb!
AF: That sort of leads into my next question, what made you decide to compete again, since it is neither of your first times?
IS: She suggested to me. I didn’t have any plans to go to Croatia, to Zagreb, to compete in The Barista League again because I won it already so that was enough for me, right?! But Elizaveta was like, “yeah, lets’ compete!” But we didn’t know the prize was going to be a trip to Korea.
EV: And then later you texted me about the prize, about South Korea, and WOW!
IS: And then later on when we bought tickets, I was like, “trip to Korea,” and she has been learning Korean. And she was like, “we should win,” and I was like, “well, maybe.”
I don’t know the sensation, how to describe it… when you come back to compete a second time when you’ve already won… it’s pretty stressful. She really wanted to win and I didn’t want to let her down.
SM: What other competitions have you been in?
IS: I have competed a lot. I was a stage manager for World Brewers Cup in Dublin and Budapest. I competed in the Barista Championships in St. Petersburg for Regionals and in Nationals… And then I decided to get my judge’s certification so now I’m judging Brewers Cup and Roasters Championships at Nationals. We have a lot of competitions in Russia.
SM: Elizaveta, have you competed before in other competitions?
EV: I competed in Aeropress in St. Petersburg and three times in Cup Tasters. AND THE BARISTA LEAGUE! Haha
IS: Yes! The Barista League!
AF: Did you all come to Zagreb with a strategy?
IS: To be honest, yes. We really wanted to win. We read the rules like hundreds of times.
AF: Did you divide up tasks or decide who would do what?
IS: Yeah, yeah, yeah! In the morning we decided how we would manage the station because we didn’t want to be stressed on stage. You always get nervous and there’s a lot of people. So we decided one of us would do this thing in the first round and the other would do that. We just managed our time.
AF: What are you most excited about in South Korea?
IS: I actually don’t have any plans, but I want to visit one coffee shop I follow on Instagram, Fritz Coffee.
EV: I want to get a tattoo.
AF: Whoa!! That’s awesome.
EV: I have a tattoo in Korean already. It means love.
IS: For me I’m most excited about going so far away from our home, so far away from our culture, and to see more of the planet. I really like learning about different cultures and different people.
EV: I want to speak Korean with other people who speak Korean!